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Prostitution has actually been legal or tolerated in Germany throughout history. Even in the s, police preferred a system of regulation so they could supervise prostitution, according to the book Prostitution by Eva-Maria Heberer. Under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, brothels were banned in large parts of Prussia for some years, and prostitutes had to be registered. During the Weimar Republic, a campaign to fight venereal diseases adopted the notion that prostitution should not be criminalized, but rather controlled as far as where it could take place, such as not near schools or churches.
The Nazi regime implemented restrictions on prostitutes, and many cities banned the practice in public places. Prostitutes were also considered "asocial" by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. When the country split in two at the start of the Cold War, the two nations had very different policies. The communist East German or GDR government made prostitution illegal, as commercial sex work seemed to contradict their socialist agenda. Still, the secret Stasi police would use prostitutes to blackmail people.
In West Germany, prostitution was regulated and legislation required sex workers to obtain health certificates. Click here for all The Local's guides to Living in Germany. Photo: DPA. A law implemented in sought to improve the conditions for sex workers by allowing them to sue for their wages and become part of health, unemployment and pension programmes. It's estimated that between , to , prostitutes work in Germany, according to DPA.
Local governments may place certain restrictions on prostitutes, such as restricting the practice in certain areas or at certain times. After the last German elections in , the coalition government that formed promised to reform prostitution laws and better combat human trafficking.
But the law has met with fierce criticism from sex worker groups and advocates who say it infringes upon their privacy and could encourage women to work illegally instead.