Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Legalization Opens Criminal Floodgates

My home country of Germany is one of the few nations to legalize prostitution. Proponents of legalization argue that all attempts to deal with the sex business have failed and the only option left untried is decriminalization. Legalization helps the victims of the pay-for-sex system, the women, so the argument goes. The law provides them with rights, health insurance, and even benefits. It also provides prostitutes legal recourse. They can sue their client if he doesn’t pay.

Years ago the Netherlands legalized marijuana so that in one of the countries’ so-called "coffee shops" you can now go buy marijuana. Proponents of legalizing marijuana argued that by decriminalizing pot smokers, you could separate them from the hard drug mafia. This experiment didn’t succeed.

Citizens legally enter through the front door of the “coffee shops”, but criminal suppliers still use the back door. They sell marijuana legally, but also peddle other drugs prohibited by law. So while smoking marijuana is legal, every smoker remains only a small step away from a criminal. This should give the Dutch pause. Instead they pioneered the legalization of prostitution too.

Legalized prostitution creates the same problems that legalized marijuana does. While prostitution is legal, forced prostitution is not. The latter occurs, and the new German law unintentionally makes it harder to hunt down human traffickers, especially from Eastern Europe and Africa. Similarly, it is harder to combat under-aged prostitution. With legalized marijuana and prostitution, Amsterdam became a magnet for human traffickers, drug traders and petty criminals. This is not the world legalization’s proponents envisioned, but it happened.

Germany’s red-green coalition pushed the legalization of prostitution past parliament. In a reflection of the power of feminism in Germany, the fate of the women trumps all other considerations. Now the consequences have to be managed. Questions like should prostitutes be able to collect unemployment benefits? should government be in the business of encouraging prostitution as a career path? can you allow prostitutes to advertise their services on TV?

Some of the solutions to these questions will be plainly ridiculous. Prostitution is just not a profession like any other. It’s not a service job like a waitress. Government cannot treat all jobs equally if prostitution is one of them. Prohibition might not work, regulation might be difficult and legalization will not be sustainable. So -– and let’s think creatively -- what's next?

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