The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

When the Parties of the Left Legalize Prostitution

Mar 4, 2002

A “law on prostitution” took effect in the German state of Rhine, on the first of January. Under the pretext of ending the “dual morality” of the state, which condemns prostitution, while in fact tolerating it, the new law gives legal recognition to prostitution, today no longer considered a “violation of society’s mores.”

The law recognizes that prostitutes, who had no legal existence up until now, have the right to social protections (like unemployment, medical care and retirement.) That is certainly a minimum ... since it ought to be guaranteed to every person.

But at the same time, this law has reactionary aspects, and the immense majority of prostitutes will not be better protected from exploitation and violence.

The encouragement of prostitution is no longer considered a crime. For the managers of bordellos this is certainly an advantage–since they can no longer be prosecuted. Nor will it be illegal for a bordello to advertise its services.

According to the Social Democratic minister for women’s questions, Christine Bergmann, prostitutes can now, for example, if a client doesn’t pay them, call the police and reveal the identity of the client! The prostitutes can decide “freely”–so says this new law–which services they choose to give to their clients, and the boss of the bordello can’t legally force them to do otherwise.

This is sordid. Prostitution is never a “free” choice. To recognize it like an activity that has no problems ignores that basic fact.

Of the 400,000 prostitutes noted in the German census, about half are immigrants from other countries such as the Ukraine, Albania, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc. At most, they have only tourist visas; some don’t even have any immigration papers. They are, in fact, even more at the mercy of the pimps. If a government wanted to help them get out of the profession, the first thing it would do is give them legal papers, so they could get out of their clandestine life. It would help them find a normal job.

Germany keeps thousands and thousands of border guards on its eastern border, to prevent the poor–who flee the misery of Eastern Europe and the Balkans–from finding refuge in one of the rich countries of Europe. But this formidable police presence doesn’t prevent the traffic in women from taking place and prospering.

The leaders of the German Social Democratic Party and the Greens, who together voted to pass this law, boast of how clever they have been. “The new law is a great success for Green politics,” according to a spokesperson for the ecologists on women’s questions, Irmingard ScheweGerigk.

It is now more than a century since one of the founders of the German Social Democratic Worker Party, August Bebel, explained that the degree to which a society is emancipated can be judged by the degree to which its women are emancipated.

Bebel was more ahead of our times that those supposedly modern “enlightened” people!