The only street in Hamburg with window prostitution: women are not welcome here


Window prostitution gateways, erotic centers outside the city center and compulsory registration: many of the sex work measures that are on the table in Amsterdam are already a reality in Hamburg. What can be learned from this?

Window prostitution gateways, erotic centers outside the city center and compulsory registration: many of the sex work measures that are on the table in Amsterdam are already a reality in Hamburg. What can be learned from this?

Roxana Sudagar

Hamburg’s Herbertstrasse, although only 100 meters long, has earned a good reputation. This is the only street in the city with prostitution on the windows, and to keep it from becoming a tourist attraction, there is a controversial rule: women are not allowed. This message is clearly marked on the metal barriers at the end of the lane. Stories circulate on internet forums about women going through it anyway, only to be chased off the street by angry sex workers.

Whether these stories are true, Undine de Rivière, a sex worker in Hamburg, isn't sure. “I don’t work behind windows, but when I visit colleagues there, we meet at the entrance so that I don’t get kicked out. Therefore, the rule is taken seriously. It obviously makes sex workers feel safer with it, although it doesn't do anything about the hordes of drunken male tourists who just want to watch."

De Riviere knows from experience that there are female clients, but they certainly make up a very small percentage of window prostitution.

Most popular red light district

Oddly enough, this rule shows that sex workers don't want tourists who can't make money. Is this also something for Amsterdam, where the city council has spent years looking for ways to curb mass tourism in the red-light district - if necessary, drawing curtains against the will of sex workers?

“Of course not,” says Stephanie Klee, a sex worker and co-founder of Germany's first advocacy group for sex workers and brothels. "In Hamburg it's just one lane, it's hard to put up fences around the entire red-light district." By the way, such gateways are seriously considered in Amsterdam.

Sex tourism in Germany is less extreme, says Klee. Take the Reeperbahn, the main street of Hamburg's most popular red-light district: there are brothels, sex clubs and one street walk area where street prostitution is still allowed in the evenings and at night. “But there are also ‘normal’ bars, restaurants and tours. It's a good mix."

There are also two red-light districts,” says De Riviere, who works in the Hauptbahnhof district. "The area used to be one big area for walking the streets, but in recent years it's become more and more restricted." The third district is located more on the outskirts of the city.


Those who don't want to have anything to do with tourists can simply work in a different area, says De Riviere. “Sex workers on the Reeperbahn choose tourists; they like the atmosphere of a party or just passing by customers. I myself recruit clients through my website, and after thirty years I have many regular clients. This is exactly what you want; the most important thing for a sex worker is to have different options.”

One such option in Hamburg is the so-called Laufhaus: a kind of hotel where sex workers rent separate rooms and receive clients. It's actually an erotic center like the one the mayor of Halsem has been trying to open for years on the outskirts of Amsterdam in exchange for closing the windows in the Red Light District.

Some sex workers are very happy with one Laufhaus, says De Riviere. “But this is a certain way of working: you have to plan ahead, there is no spontaneous entry. And it is important that you are not in a completely deserted area. It would be best to do something similar in Amsterdam, but not instead of window prostitution - multiple options are so important.

catastrophic consequences

In Germany, sex work is legalized at the federal level, but local governments are allowed to make additional rules. For example, as of 2017, a new federal law has been in place that includes a duty to register sex workers, mandatory annual health risk "consultations" and a permit requirement for brothels. Some regions also charge money for registration, others impose additional conditions or have few offices where you can get permission.

Hamburg is relatively mild, says De Riviere. "In cities like Bremen and Munich, the law has made sex work almost impossible."

According to Marjan Weiers, who researches the sex work in Germany, the consequences of the new law are "quite catastrophic." “Sex workers who cannot or do not want to register are forced to operate illegally. This has created an industry of people who make money by helping them bypass bureaucracy and acquire customers. Therefore, sex workers have become more dependent and less likely to go to the police, because they themselves are punished.”

In addition, Viyers saw how large brothels improved at the expense of small collectives. "They didn't meet permit requirements, such as that you're no longer allowed to sleep and work in the same place."

Fine for unprotected sex

The argument is that mandatory registration protects sex workers and prevents women from being trafficked. Wijers: “But recent studies show that the trafficking of women in Germany is already declining. Nothing indicates that this law had any effect on this. Discussions about sex work are largely based on ideology and emotion rather than fact.”

Klee has also always strongly opposed mandatory registration and the fact that sex workers must give up their privacy. “Moreover: such rules do not apply to any other profession. We want equal treatment."

There are strange details in the law. For example, clients face a €50,000 fine for unprotected sex. “Do the police come into the room during sex to check if someone has a condom? It's actually a symbolic policy."

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Source: Parool.NL

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