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Exploiting prostitutes was still criminal but everything else was now above board.
Two female politicians and a Berlin madam were pictured clinking their champagne glasses in celebration. “Nobody employs prostitutes in Germany,” says Beretin.
Sex trafficking statistics are frustratingly incomplete, but a recent report estimated the number of victims in Europe at 270,000.
And Germany and the Netherlands have repeatedly ranked among the five worst blackspots.
Quite a few people agree with Beretin – and not all of them are brothel owners grumbling about their tax bills.
But that isn’t how the legalisation argument was won 12 years ago.
Picture a Sultan’s palace crossed with a Premier Inn, then wedge it between anonymous office blocks on an endless industrial park and you’re there: Paradise. In Bangkok aged 19 I checked in to a place called Mango Inn with two school friends.
Within a couple of hours we’d seen enough to get the joke.
And one way to do that is to criminalise the buyer.Those figures were released a decade ago, soon after Germany made buying sex, selling sex, pimping and brothel-keeping legal in 2002.Two years later, prostitution in Germany was thought to be worth 6 billion euros – roughly the same as Porsche or Adidas that year. Prostitution was legalised “for the government to make a lot of money,” Beretin says, strolling past a woman in a lime green lycra shrug (and nothing else) while another woman, nude except for black hold-up stockings, leans against the bar.There is “absolutely” a correlation between legalised prostitution and trafficking, says Andrea Matolcsi, the programme officer for sexual violence and trafficking at Equality Now.“For a trafficker it’s much easier to go to a country where it’s legal to have brothels and it’s legal to manage people in prostitution.
A few days later, on Monday, a cross-party report in Britain also recommended the model.