Sex workers protest in Berlin as virus keeps German brothels shut

A security guard walks inside a closed brothel in Prague on March 30. (AP pic)

BERLIN: Several dozen prostitutes armed with an inflatable sex doll staged a protest in Berlin on Friday against coronavirus restrictions they say are preventing them from making a living.

The protesters gathered outside the Bundesrat upper house of parliament with red umbrellas and placards bearing slogans such as “Let us work,” “Open the brothels now” and “Our sector is being driven underground”.

Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany, with sex workers entitled to employment contracts and social security benefits.

But sex work has been banned since mid-March as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The Federal Association for Erotic and Sex Services said this was “incomprehensible in view of the developments in other sectors”.

“Hairdressers, massage parlours, beauty salons… fitness studios, tattoo shops, saunas, restaurants and hotels have been allowed to reopen,” it said in a statement, but sex workers “seem to have been forgotten by politicians”.

Brothels have been allowed to reopen in neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, the association pointed out.

“Prostitution facilities are subject to particularly strict regulations and are obliged to offer their sex workers a safe, hygienic working environment,” it said.

More than 9,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Germany, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre.

With new infection numbers falling, some German states, such as Thuringia, are considering allowing brothels to reopen.