Germany is the “Bordello of Europe”

By: Kristine Alarcon

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

German sex workers

Germany is known for its beautiful castles, delicious cheeses and sausages, and classical composers including Beethoven and Bach, but now this country is being labeled as the “Bordello of Europe.”

The decriminalization of prostitution in 2002 seems to be causing human trafficking and the sex trade industry to become more aggressive and organized in Germany. The decriminalization law was initially enacted to lower the violence in sex trade, making it less exploitative and safer as well as reducing the stigma associated with it. However, the policy has resulted with an unexpected effect. In December 2014, a petition – signed by German psychologists and victims with related traumatic experiences – is seeking to eliminate the decriminalization law in order to stop the violent and traumatic sexual acts.

Dr. Ingeborg Kraus initiated the petition to repeal the current law on prostitution. As a psychologist, she knows that rape not only deeply traumatizes a woman, but it also destroys the foundation and social structure of a community. The women can be rejected from society and even their family as they are viewed as if are dishonoring their community.Prostitution is viewed as a typical job where the women are called “sex workers” under German law. However, roughly 90% of the prostituted women in Germany are not native born. Many cannot speak the language and are not aware of their rights; many come from countries like Romania and Bulgaria, which are among the poorest in Europe. As a result, they can experience traumatic and horrific actions that can result in emotional pain. For example, a “brothel menu” can cause trauma to these women, as there are no limitations on the harm they may experience during the sexual acts. Acts on the menu can include items listed as “blood sports,” which involves cutting the woman, “sandwich,” involving one woman and two men, or other much more risky acts. Some brothels even include nudist floors where the only item of clothing prostituted women wear are a pair of stilettos or “gang-bang” floors where a customer can bring his friends.

In her work with sex trade victims, Dr. Kraus finds that violent experiences stay after prostitution, even after the women leave the industry; the psychological effects of the violent sexual acts still linger in the minds of victims. It can be even more difficult for these women because many of them entering the sex trade industry have sacrificed their lives to earn money for their families and are usually 18-19 years old. Sometimes they cannot continue living in a brothel in Germany because it is too traumatic for them. Additionally, the choice to return to their home country is often unavailable to them because society and their families reject them. Germany typically does not want to keep these individuals in residence. Other effects of these distressing experiences can include drug addictions, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, and much more.

Dr. Kraus is working towards the end of legalized prostitution. She has managed to enact the Nordic Model, which combines free market capitalism and social benefits, and fights the demand for prostitution by recruiting leading German trauma experts. She is also talking with Danish and French psychotraumatologists to help join the cause. Dr. Kraus has even sent a letter with signatures from 100 organizations worldwide to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to repeal the decriminalization law. She and her colleagues have started a petition for the public.

Kristine Alarcon graduated at the University of San Francisco with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is working towards certification in Sterile Processing and Distribution. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Bien-Aime, Taina. “Germany Wins the Title of ‘Bordello of Europe’: Why Doesn’t Angela Merkel Care?” The Huffington Post. Retrieved on May 29, 2015.

Photo Credit: (Hockenos, Paul)

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