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You might think the mayor and local residents would be happy, but you'd be wrong. That's because the new business is a brothel, operated by a firm called The Paradise. A mega-brothel, in fact. The problem is, they're on the border with France, where attitudes toward prostitution are not so laissez-faire despite what you might have read about Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Thanks to the EU's Schengen treaty, which went into effect in , the French can simply cross the border into more liberal Germany if they want to buy sex legally.
It's an outstanding city with a great opera house and theater, hiking paths and international festivals. Alexander Kuhn, an outreach worker for Aidshilfe Saar, a charity focused on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, says you have to take the good with the bad. We can't tell them, 'Come here during the day, but please don't come and visit prostitutes. Cross-border sex tourism is nothing new. According to Maud Olivier, a French member of parliament who played a key role in writing the country's new prostitution law, it's Germany's approach that needs to change.
And we know that our very strict legislation on sex procurement is being bypassed: Pimps from Germany use the Internet to organize prostitution networks in France, and they do so with complete impunity. German federal police do not release national figures on the number of prostitutes. Sex worker support organization Hydra puts the number at ,, though other groups say the figure is closer to , Given the legal situation in France, it may be harder to do a full count of prostitutes there, but 20, is a widely reported figure.
In February the European Parliament—partly based in Strasbourg near France's border with Germany—voted to criminalize the use of prostitutes. Though nonbinding, the European Parliament vote made history as the first pan-European effort to regulate the sex trade. But to be truly effective in reducing prostitution and fighting human trafficking, we need our neighbors to follow us. Germany is taking some moderate steps in that direction. The new Christian Democrat-Social Democrat coalition government, which took power in December, is preparing a ban on forced prostitution that is expected to go into effect later this year.
According to the Ministry of Families, Seniors, Women and Youth, most of the country's prostitutes are foreign-born, with the number of Bulgarians and Romanians rising particularly fast. Just as there is no official tally of prostitutes, there are no official figures on what proportion of them are victims of human trafficking. Criminal investigators interviewed by the newspaper Die Zeit say most of the prostitutes in Germany are trafficked.