Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Germany's sex industry readies for football World Cup

By Vicente Poveda

Berlin, Aug 8 (DPA) Germany's sex industry here hopes to notch up its own successes during the 2006 World Cup. From street prostitutes to the upmarket escorts of flashy clubs, sex workers are preparing a major offensive to find clients among the millions of fans - most of them men - that will take part in this sporting mega event.

Prostitution has been just one more career in Germany since 2001, when the Social Democratic-Green government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder approved a law legitimising sex workers but made sure they paid taxes. From that point on, their profession ceased to be considered immoral or contrary to the public good.

So long as their papers are in order, they are in the country legally and have not been forced into prostitution; neither the women nor their clients need to fear police crackdowns and the like.

The powers-that-be seem to have recognized the economic potential of the industry.

In Cologne for example - a city of one million located on the Rhine - the municipality introduced a "sex tax" of 150 euros ($180) per prostitute, per month two years ago. This is on top of the income tax licensed prostitutes must pay.

Of course, out-of-doors sexual activity remains strictly off limits. And that could create some problems given the avalanche of sex workers that will try and come to Germany next year to ply their trade.

Due to the expected growth in demand for women during the four weeks of the World Cup, Ulrike Hauffe, head of the Women's Committee in the city of Bremen, predicts a "veritable flood of prostitutes" will enter Germany next year.

"The estimates are in the region of 30,000 to 40,000 women," she recently warned.

In Cologne, one of the host cities of the World Cup, city authorities have put up a complex of custom-built cabins on the outskirts of the city, where escorts can attend to clients out of sight of the rest of the city. In so doing, they keep prostitution out of dirty car parks and away from cheap hotel rooms and dark street corners.

These pre-built units, that Germany's bureaucrats have christened "Verrichtungsboxen" - something akin to "action boxes," action of the sexual kind, of course - seem more like garages. They were imported from Utrecht, where the idea was first tried. [Boxes, garages, .... camps, gulags - Donna]

In these custom-built "garages" that the women call "boxes" or "singles", the clients drive in directly with their cars. The units are built in such a way that the driver cannot open the main door, but the workers have enough space to get out and away if attacked. The units also contain an emergency alarm, basic sanitary facilities and bins to throw out used condoms.

According to the authorities in Cologne, the units have helped move sex workers out of the city centre and have reduced attacks on the women by clients and pimps. The latter are also banned now from the complex, which was set up almost four years ago. So far, it is a unique project in Germany - one that is jointly funded by city authorities, the police and the Social Service of Catholic Women at an annual cost of 480,000 euros.

Now, with the World Cup approaching, authorities in Dortmund have decided to build their own cabins, in the hope of avoiding a situation where the prostitutes that come from abroad, end up crowding the streets and the parks.

"We have to do something or this place will convert itself into a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah," said a spokesperson for the city council in Dortmund, another host city.

In Berlin, local authorities are also seeking their own solutions to this issue that might range from setting up their own "action boxes" to handing out free contraceptives. What's more, in the capital, one of the main hubs of the World Cup celebration - sex workers will soon have their own massive new workplace.

Shortly before the World Cup gets going, a new brothel of 3,500 square metres will open - some 20 minutes on foot from the Olympic Stadium. It will have space for around 100 sex workers and 600 clients.

"Everything will be better - more elegant, cleaner," insists Norman Jacob, the spokesman of "Artemis", who describes the place as the classy alternative to street prostitution.

The new club, which bears the name of the Greek god of innocence, will include a spa with jacuzzi, a sauna, a Turkish bath, movie theatre and a round-the-clock dinner buffet. It will cost 100 euros ($120) to go in - on top of which clients must pay prices fixed by the girls.

"These will be around 50 euros ($60) per half hour. Extra services cost more," Jacob said.

The "World Cup brothel", as it has come to be labelled by Berlin's press, will be one of the biggest sex houses in Germany. And it will open its doors with the blessing of local authorities.

"If they guarantee that in the "mega-brothel" they don't force women to practice prostitution and they help them in emergency situations, it will make a positive contribution," Konrad Freiberg, president of the Union of German Police, told the Germany Press Agency (DPA).

In June, Europe's biggest brothel - Cologne's "Pascha" - a huge building of 11 floors that services more than 30,000 clients a month launched special offers to attract the journalists that came to cover the Confederations Cup - the "dress rehearsal" for the World Cup.

The club organised a photo session for the press, attended by its nearly 200 female workers. It also offered journalists the chance to go on guided tours of the city accompanied by some of the women.

A spokesman for the institution confirmed that the offer will be repeated at the World Cup - a tournament that seems destined to give a lift to other industries besides tourism and construction.

--DPA

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