Sex workers in Hamburg have staged a protest urging authorities to open brothels that have been closed for months since Germany was hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Licensed courtesans, some dressed in lingerie, others wearing theatrical masks, and inflatable sex dolls filled the city’s red light district late on 11 July. Many of them held placards with statements aimed at drawing attention to the plight of sex workers, reading "[the] industry is driven into illegality", "we need financial support", "the oldest profession needs your help". Others held cheeky signs that read: "We are attracting tourists to our dear Germany".
The professional association for #sexworkers (BesD eV) and the federal association for brothel operators (BSD eV) gathered in front of the Federal Council in #Berlin on Friday in a call to end #coronavirus ban. pic.twitter.com/NpTSzFucXd— Ruptly (@Ruptly) July 3, 2020
Germany’s Association of Sex Workers, which organised the protest, said that the continued closure of brothels forces courtesans into the streets, which is illegal and far more dangerous. The organisation said that the same safety measures that are now being observed in other spheres where a close human presence is necessary could be implemented in the sex industry.
"Prostitution does not carry a greater risk of infection than other close-to-body services, like massages, cosmetics or even dancing or contact sports. Hygiene is part of the business in prostitution", the Association of Sex Workers said in a statement.
Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany and sex workers are entitled to social security benefits. Other European countries like Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium (the country has an even greater death toll from the coronavirus than Germany) reopened brothels after lifting restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the disease. However, in Germany the restrictions on the sex industry remain in place.
The demonstration in Hamburg comes a week after a similar protest was held in the capital Berlin near the upper house of parliament, with sex workers saying that the industry had been betrayed by authorities. Courtesans complained that hairdressers, massage parlours, beauty salons, fitness studios, tattoo shops, saunas, restaurants, and hotels have all been allowed to reopen.