Berlin’s bureaucratic backlog is now hitting its bordellos, according to a Feb. 11 Tagesspiegel report, as the city’s houses of ill repute await the city to issue licenses under a new law.
Of the 145 Berlin brothels that have applied for licenses under the so-called prostitute protection law, only a single location has received permission – and it was reportedly a new brothel in Mitte. The article is based on information Marcel Luthe, a politician with the business-friendly FDP, received upon request from the city’s economic ministry.
The Hauptstadt has an estimated 400 to 500 such businesses and 8,000 sex workers.
The new law went into effect July 1 and requires not only licenses for Brothels but also compels prostitutes to register. As part of the registration, sex workers are required to undergo both general and health counseling to ensure they are not being forced into the profession and are aware of the measures necessary to protect public health. The controversial law also made it illegal to have commercial sex without a condom.
Brothel owners were to have applied for a license by the end of last year and are legally allowed to continue operating without a license as long as they applied. The reason practically no licenses have been issued is because the economy ministry hasn’t yet sent unified guidelines to Berlin’s districts, who would then issue the licenses. The ministry has reportedly said it hopes to finish the guidelines by the end of the first quarter, according to inquiries by the districts of Mitte and Pankow.
“I myself run one and don’t know what to do,” Elke Winkelmann, head of the federal association of sex workers, told the newspaper. No one knows what to do and district and city officials are also unable to tell owners when they might get permission. “It’s as if it were winter and everyone was suddenly surprised that it snowed.”
The law is controversial among sex workers because the last time such registration was necessary was in 1939. This time around, prostitutes were to have registered by the end of last year and are also required to declare a region where they plan to work, though it can be as general as a German state or possibly the entire country. Nonetheless, critics have pointed out that no other professional license requ
ires applicants to limit themselves to a specific area or region.
But Berlin also lacks the facilities and staff to perform the required counseling. Tempelhof-Schöneberg is to screen prostitutes for all of Berlin and, as with the brothels, prostitutes who applied for licenses are allowed to continue working before getting official approval. The district can begin providing the initial consultation Feb. 12, according to the Tagesspiegel, but won’t be able to provide the health consultation because it needs 20 separate offices to protect the privacy of applicants.
“The search is happening at all levels,” a city official told the paper. “The search is taking a lot of time.” A building in Potsdamer Strasse would fit the district’s needs but needs to be renovated, which would take too long. In addition, the district wants to hire nine people to process the applications. The 180 applicants also still have to be screened.