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A Chief Commissioner in the red light district: "Legislature has removed all instruments from our


The Pimps Are Wading in Champagne

The [German] Prostitution Act has condemned the police to inactivity, for it
presupposes pimps and prostitutes are equal partners. This is "madness", says
someone who should know: Chief Commissioner Hohmann, for 14 years Director of
the "Investigation Service Prostitution "in Stuttgart.

The Interior Ministers of the [German] Federal States have launched a

cross-party call for a reform of the Prostitution Act. You also joined this
demand. Why?

This law has caused an erosion of criminal law. We have very limited options to
pursue those working in the background. Legislature has by and by removed all
instruments from our toolbox. And every inch that you yield will be claimed by
the pimps. Right from the beginning we have said: if this law comes, then only
one group will be wading in champagne, namely the pimps.

How many women, in your experience, prostitute themselves on a fully

self-employed basis?

Three to five percent.

So 95-97 percent are working for a pimp. But pimping is still a criminal
offense, isn't it?

In principle, yes. But first, we have a decision of the District Court of Augsburg,
which in the case of a large brothel dismissed a case on the charge of pimping,
although the brothel operators were giving the women fixed rules for prices,
working hours, and sexual practices; there was also compulsory nudity for the
women, and they were not allowed to use the phone. In addition, the clients had
a "right of complaint"; the women then had to pay penalties. The Court justified
the dismissal of the case by invoking the Prostitution Act. It later emerged that
there were, of course, criminal masterminds and gangs working behind, who
smuggled the women into the country. The same, by the way, happened in the
flat-rate brothel in Fellbach, where nine men are now accused of serious human
trafficking. The problem is, and this is the second point, that proving this has
become very difficult because we require for our investigation a so-called initial
suspicion. For this, we used to have the § 180a which subjected the "promotion
of prostitution" to legal prosecution. But this paragraph was abolished.

Should the § 180a be reenacted?

This would help us. But this statutory offense was more of a crutch. What we
really need are objective statutory offenses which can be proved without the
woman's testimony. This is the crucial problem: for an investigation we need the
testimony of the victim, of the woman. Of course it is a highlight of legal
philosophy and an amazing sign of progress that the legislature gave the victim
the power of definition as to whether he or she feels like a victim. However, the
reality is completely different. The women are in fact victims, but they give no
testimonies. The women will go on telling you that they got their black eyes from
bumping against a closet. Or they will tell you, "He is not a pimp - he's my
boyfriend! I like to give him my wages!" The Prostitution Act has one major
design flaw: it presupposes pimps and prostitutes are equal partners. This is
madness; it is a total misunderstanding of the situation. We are dealing here
mostly with frightened, helpless, and dependent women.

But why does the legislature attach so little importance to the

experience of the police?

Indeed, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, the former German Justice Minister, took the
trouble to see for herself. She visited a brothel owner who is well-known here in
Stuttgart and discussed the planned law with him. We came to know this
accidentally and were a bit surprised. For she did not visit us...

So what legal options are left?

We are trying to take all possible detours: customs law, social law, tax law. We
even brought a procedure based on exorbitant rents. The women pay the
equivalent of 300 € per square meter for the filthiest flophouse. But after having
examined the case, the prosecutor refused to initiate an investigation. Much
would be gained if the legislature would set limits here.

That's what had been announced by the legislature in 2007, but was
never implemented. We have also been waiting for a law to penalize the
suitors of forced prostitutes for the past seven years.

It would be very important to focus on the responsibility of the suitors. Such a

law would certainly be mostly symbolic, but even symbolic decisions have their

value. The legislator must give a clear objective, but, unfortunately, this is not in
sight. And as long as this is the case, the other side has the upper hand. For they
have freedom to do one thing: the maximum exploitation of their "merchandise".

What should a law look like that would help to prosecute the pimps?

We are jealously looking at France. There, the § 225 of the Code Pénal lays down
precise criteria: for example, every person will be made legally responsible for
pimping, who lives with another person without having an income of his own; or
who has a relationship with a person who prostitutes herself. Even those who
transport a prostitute or who carry the prostitute's money with them can be
prosecuted. A pimp from Stuttgart and the two operators of a number of
prostitution flats in Baden-Württemberg, who, according to the existing law,
could not be prosecuted in Germany, are currently detained in France for
pimping under this provision.

What would such a law mean for the women?

It would reduce their burden. We have a lot of women here who have never been
to school. They would be totally overtaxed by the legal process, and it would be
good if we could spare them the testimony.

What do you think of the Swedish model, which generally penalizes the
purchase of sexual services as a criminal offense?

That is our goal! However, the way the debate is currently going in this country,
I think it is unrealistic to expect this goal to be achieved. For the foreseeable
future, prostitution will not be prohibited in Germany. Obviously, there are lots of
people to whom the prostitutes' situation does not matter at all; or who do not
realize how it progressively destroys the women - or how broken they already
are, because otherwise they would not end up in this industry. So I think the first
step would be to allow prostitution exclusively on a self-employed basis and to
establish objective criteria for this. Otherwise we have no chance.

Critics of the Swedish law maintain that prostitution would thus only be
pushed into illegality, where it would be completely out of control.

I am convinced that prostitution can also be largely controlled when it is illegal.

There are the houses in which it takes place, and it must also be promoted. The
only problem is that costs and efforts will increase for the authorities. Apart from
this, I basically appreciate when a society develops in this direction, as is the
case in Sweden, that prostitution is not considered socially acceptable. In
Germany prostitution has become socially acceptable, and it interlocks with other
sectors of society. For example, one large brothel has a VIP area for sports
teams; and one honorable master craftsman, after the Lehman Brothers
bankruptcy, now prefers to invest in the red light district. This is a dangerous

(EMMA, Spring 2011)