Walking around Berlin sometimes, I give an interaction between a man and woman a second glance. Those clothes...the illicit whispering - something is definitely up. You can see this type of transaction fairly frequently in certain areas around the city. It is so public, it didn't take me long to ask,
"Is prostitution legal in Germany?"
It is. Prostitution in Germany is both legal and taxed. In fact, prostitution has never been criminalized in Germany and is generally accepted , though there are continuing efforts to make the practice safe and protect those involved in sex work.
Amsterdam may be known as the prostitution capital, but the German industry brings in over 15 billion euros a year with 400,000 prostitutes serving 1.2 million men every day. This is more prostitutes per capita than any other country on the continent.
Short History of Prostitution in Germany
Prostitution has almost always been tolerated in Germany. Throughout Germany's history, the government has generally preferred to register and control those involved in the industry than ban it. It was basically decriminalized in 1927 (Law for Combating Venereal Diseases) with rights further extended by the Prostitution Act in 2002. This act sought to improve the social welfare and legal rights of prostitutes by allowing prostitutes to engage in (and enforce) work contracts as well as pay into social security and utilize health insurance.
This does not mean the situation is without complications. There is increased crime surrounding prostitution from theft to sex trafficking. In particular, the exploitation of women from Eastern Europe is a major problem. It is believed that about 70% of women working in the country are foreign.
The 2002 act is widely considered a failure. Many prostitutes only stay in the country for a short time and have little interest in paying taxes or receiving benefits. While brothels pay high taxes and generate income for the state, most do little - if anything - to protect the woman. In fact, most view both the consumers and prostitutes as clients. Many prostitutes prefer to work independently rather than under a contract.
Street Prostitution in Germany
Though prostitution is legal throughout Germany, cities may place different taxes and regulations on the business. Straßenstrich, or street prostitution, is usually only allowed in regulated areas with off-limit zones called Sperrbezirk.
For example, in Bonn prostitutes pay a nightly sex work tax to work on Immenburgstrasse through vending machines that resemble parking meters. Munich's entire city center is Sperrbezirk. Hamburg's infamous Reeperbahn (red light district) is the most well-known area. Note that several states prohibit brothels in towns with fewer than 35,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, prostitution is allowed everywhere in Berlin.
Prostitution in Berlin
As stated above, prostitution is legal throughout the capitol. You can see business being openly conducted on streets like Kurfürstenstraße. There are also numerous small bars and even apartments known as Wohnungspuffs that cater to the business. Apartment prostitution is known as Wohnungspuffs (or simply Puffs) and can be found through advertisements or word of mouth. FKK clubs provide a more relaxed atmosphere with swimming pools and sauna, "meet and greet" bars and private rooms on the upper floors. Artemis in Berlin is one of the largest FKK clubs.
Prostitution in Frankfurt
Frankfurt's thriving banking industry and international scene are often linked to its successful sex market. This is centered around the flourishing red-light district known as the Bahnhofsviertel around the Haupbahnhof and is as professional as the sex industry can be. Facilities range from Eros Centres (inexpensive licensed brothels without a Madam) to one of the largest brothels in Germany, FKK World.
Prostitution in Cologne
Prostitution in Stuttgart
Though prostitution's legal status makes it more well regulated and safe than almost anywhere else, it is up to you to secure your own personal safety. Be aware of the rules and regulations involved with any establishment you enter and note that bargaining is not accepted once an item or service has been purchased. Also avoid getting overly intoxicated as this is a surefire way to get into trouble.
If you encounter an issue or have concerns about the safety or consent of the woman, call the police at 112.