Das Recht, nicht zu arbeiten

Mein neuer Text ist natürlich auch schon wieder durch den Wolf, also durchs Lektorat gedreht worden. Aber es ist ein sehr lesenswerter Text dabei heraus gekommen. Hier meine Vorab-Veröffentlichung in englischer Sprache. +++ Update: Die deutsche Version ist nun beim BESD erschienen.

The right not to work

After big protests by sex workers – including in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart – the news came from Berlin last week: There are finally easing of sex work. And from September 1st, the buying and selling of sex should be allowed again, at least in the capital, subject to conditions.

BILD and Co write flat slogans like „Prostitutes finally want sex again“
But the loud calls for relaxation and opening of the red light industry should not hide the fact that many sex workers do not want to work at all due to Corona. Regardless of whether they might enjoy their work, the demonstrating colleagues were primarily concerned with reopening their workplaces and finally being able to earn money again.

Not all sex workers are really excited to work because they love their job as much as the so-called happy hooker narrative in the media and the visible activism often suggest (reading recommendation: “Why sex workers don’t have to love their job in order to get it To earn respect ”). Such ideas do nothing to enforce equal rights for sex workers, especially not to enforce the rights of illegalized and marginalized colleagues.

Many sex workers have to work despite Corona.
Because somehow they have to survive.
Because they can’t afford to plunder their retirement plans any more.
Because they no longer have any financial reserves.
Because they just have to pay their rent.
Because there is no other way to support their family.
Because they are in debt.
Because they don’t want to lose everything they’ve built.

Despite her personal health situation.
Despite the fear of possibly infecting themselves (for example, if they belong to a risk group).
Despite the fear of possibly infecting others (e.g. partners, children or parents who may belong to a risk group).
Despite work bans (and the resulting unsafe working conditions, depressed prices or poorer customers).

The state is failing sex workers
There are also corona risk groups among sex workers – they need financial support so that they do not have to work.

The problem is: comparatively few sex workers receive state support. Because even the minimum requirements for this – legal residence or nationality and possession of a tax number – by no means all meet. Even fewer have the “luxury” of health insurance or permanent residence. Whoever is left now – like many self-employed – can hardly access financial reserves.

For 15 years of voluntary politics, the interests of the weakest members of our sex work community have been in the foreground for me. 80% of all sex workers in Germany are migrants. Where is the state financial support for the often precarious sex workers who are marginalized, multiply stigmatized, illegalized?

This is a scandal, not only for the work situation in Germany, but worldwide.

Many sex workers are utterly desperate. From Germany and other countries I learned of the tragic death of some sex workers by suicide. The BesD emergency aid fund is now empty and we can currently no longer support sex workers in emergencies. To be honest, it is not the job of a professional association to assume state responsibility. The state fails if it does not care for the poorest of the poor.

Corona epidemic shows effects of repressive prostitution policy
I notice that the sex workers on the street in Berlin report the same thing during the work ban due to the corona epidemic, as the sex workers in Sweden and Ireland have been doing since the sex purchase ban there: Because of the ban, only the bad customers remain, which is why there is also increased violence. The mindful, respectful customers are careful and stay away.

The effects of repressive state prostitution policies have been examined in over 130 scientific studies. *

A ban on sex work always leads to an increase in violence against sex workers.

Political activism – support for sex workers who want to get involved
Personally, I am critical of the so-called respectability policy – that is, the „offering“ of selected individuals from marginalized groups to the „mainstream“ – and I believe that some statements are more harmful than useful. That is why I advocate professional coaching for sex workers who want to get into activism or who have little experience with political work and are looking for support. The aim is to identify possible communication errors in activist work (keyword: demo posters), to encourage and empower committed people and to develop strategies together. The date will be announced here in good time. Please send inquiries to susanne@besd-ev.de.

This blog article comes from BesD board member and former sex worker Susanne Bleier-Wilp. She has been an activist for the rights of sex workers at home and abroad for many years.

* Platt, Lucy, Grenfell, Pippo; Meiksin, Rebecca et. al 2018: Associations between sexwork laws and sexworkers health. A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies. In: PLoS Med 15 (12), e1002680, pp. 1-54

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