Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade Prostitution is legal in Germany, and this summer's World Cup will bring business to the brothels in Berlin. Critics of the sex industry worry that not all brothels operate within legal limits, and that some women are forced into prostitution against their wills.
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Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade

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Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade

Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade

Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade

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Prostitution is legal in Germany, and this summer's World Cup will bring business to the brothels in Berlin. Critics of the sex industry worry that not all brothels operate within legal limits, and that some women are forced into prostitution against their wills.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The 2006 World Cup is expected to bring millions of soccer fans to Germany this summer and thousands of sex workers from Eastern Europe hoping to cash in on the event. But many fear the World Cup will also mean an increase in sex trafficking and forced prostitution. NPR's Rachel Martin reports from Berlin.

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

Prostitution was legalized in Germany two years ago with the intent of making the sex industry safer for both workers and their clients. But the authorities are still trying to end forced prostitution and Germany's Women's Council says the World Cup is only going to make it worse. Henny Engle(ph) is the director of the council. She says it's voicing concern in a letter sent to each member of the German National Soccer Team.

Ms. HENNY ENGLE (Women's Council): (Through Translator) We hope that the World Cup is going to be a big party, but we know it's not going to be a big party for many women, for women who have been forced into prostitution; therefore, we are asking you to make it clear that you, especially you who are considered male role models, do not want to see your sport linked in any way to these crimes.

MARTIN: Experts say prostitution is about supply and demand. Where there are large concentrations of men, large numbers of prostitutes follow. The problem is that where you find legal prostitution, Engle says, you also find higher rates of forced prostitution.

Ms. ENGLE: (Through Translator) Poor women from Eastern Europe looking to improve their lives are often lured to Germany by false promises. They think they've been hired to work in a restaurant or hotel but when they arrive, their passports are taken, their papers taken away and they are forced to work as prostitutes. This is simply not tolerable.

MARTIN: But Biltred Shank(ph), a social worker in Berlin, says forced sex work is a small percentage of overall prostitution in Germany. She says while the work of the Women's Council, churches and other social groups to curb forced prostitution is well meaning, she says too often the lines between voluntary and forced prostitution are blurred.

Ms. BILTRED SHANK (Social Worker): A lot of people can't imagine that there are women who say, `Yes, I want to work in prostitution,' and to say, `I like to work in prostitution.' Everybody wants to have some meaning. They must be forced. Women have no fun with sex. Women have no idea of prostitution.

(Soundbite of people at cafe)

MARTIN: It's almost midnight at Cafe Psst(ph) in Berlin's upscale Sharlottenberg(ph) district. The chairs are covered in fake zebra fur and small wooden tables are set with red candles and bowls of stale potato chips. Top 40 hits fill the air as a handful of middle-aged men in suits casually mingle with about a dozen prostitutes. Some work the room aggressively, dressed in sequins and stilettos while older women linger with a drink at the bar. Sara(ph) is a 27-year-old platinum blonde from Poland who works at a real estate agency during the day. She's been living in Berlin for the past 16 years and working here for seven.

SARA (Prostitute): (Through Translator) In other clubs, women are coerced into drinking alcohol. That's how it starts. Then you are told which customer you have to take on. And here, it's totally different. Every woman is free to do what she wants to do. That's why I like it here. That's why I stay; it's like a big family.

MARTIN: Alyssa Tashipo(ph) has operated this brothel since 1997 after working for years as a prostitute herself. She's expecting a big boom in customers during the World Cup and is planning to rent the place next door to expand her business. She says she takes every precaution and cooperates with the police to make sure the women who work here do so legally.

Ms. ALYSSA TASHIPO (Brothel Operator): (Through Translator) We check the papers of all the women who want to work here. We also check the work permit, if it's a woman who doesn't have a German passport. For me, it's very important that women work here voluntarily. It's also important that the men who come here know that the women work here voluntarily.

MARTIN: But Henny Engle of the German Women's Council says not all brothels are operating on the up and up. Her organization is launching a public awareness campaign to try to deter brothels and their customers from employing prostitutes who are forced into the business. While police officials say it's impossible to forecast how significant the increase in sex trafficking will be ahead of the World Cup, Engle says the problem can't be underestimated.

Ms. ENGLE: (Through Translator) Forced prostitution is a violation of human rights, and it's still a violation of human rights even if there is only one woman affected, because one woman is one woman too many.

MARTIN: There are roughly 600 brothels in Berlin alone, the largest of which sprung up a few months ago less than three miles from the World Cup Olympic stadium. Rachel Martin, NPR News, Berlin.

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