Sexual Exploitation

Most persons trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Germany are women. This section will therefore mainly deal with women. However, we would like to stress that men and transgender persons can also be affected.

Many women working in the prostitution industry had originally planned to work in Germany for a short period, hoping they could earn a lot of money very quickly and then return to their home country. While some already worked as prostitutes there, others did not. 

Some of these women are recruited in their home country under false pretences, e.g. they are promised a well-paid job such as waiting tables. They are deliberately deceived and not told that they will be working in prostitution. Once in Germany, they are forced through various means to engage in prostitution.

Other women, who are recruited specifically for the prostitution industry in the country of destination, are lured by false promises regarding the work they will be doing and earning opportunities. They are required to hand over the bulk of their income to the perpetrators. In most cases, the perpetrator announces his or her fee right when the women are recruited, claiming that the amount can be earned very quickly. Very often the distinction between labour migration and trafficking in human beings is anything but clear. Once again, we would like to stress that constraint and deceit are essential elements in the latter case. Debt bondage can also be a form of constraint, since as long as the “fees” have not been paid back, the woman or her family at home continue to face considerable pressure.

Most women are forced to lead a double life, as their family does not know what their work consists of. The social taboo is therefore reflected within the family. Many of these women are not aware of the consequences of their acts with regard to their residence status and of the strenuous work and living conditions that await them. The establishments are often derelict and the work conditions unhealthy. Many women are isolated from the outside world and are rarely allowed to leave the workplace. Because of the high costs for room rental, lawyers, traffickers, etc. they earn less than what they expected. Combined with the lack of information and insufficient language skills, the absence of human rights facilitates exploitation. Working as an illegal migrant mean that these women are under high pressure and live in constant fear of police checks or roundups.

We would like to stress that prostitution and trafficking in human beings are not automatically synonymous. In Germany, prostitution has not been considered an act against good morals since 2002. It is regulated by the Prostitution Act [Prostitutionsgesetz or ProstG]. These two fields must be clearly distinguished, as not every woman/person (migrant or not) working in prostitution is a victim of trafficking in human beings. Some women voluntarily work as sex workers in a self-empowered way, and this right to self-determination must be respected.

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