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New German draft law seeks harsher penalties for pimps and johns of forced prostitutes

The German cabinet is set to debate a new law which seeks to crack down on human trafficking in the sex trade. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said such measures made more sense than a blanket ban on prostitution.

In an attempt to curb the business of sex and human trafficking, Germany's cabinet will discuss a new draft law on Wednesday which calls for stricter punishments for those who visit forced prostitutes.

"As a state, we made a decision that we do not accept and also do not tolerate such a thing," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said during an interview with the German morning talk show "Morgenmagazin" on ARD. He added that the law was meant to have a "preventative effect" to deter those who would be clients of prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking.

Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas

Heiko Maas: A general ban on prostitution "would negatively impact all prostitutes"

"Johns" who go to forced prostitutes could now face between three months and up to five years of jail time under the proposed law. However, they could be exempt from punishment if they report the sex trafficking case to the authorities.

Critics of the draft law say that it will be hard to prove that a client knowingly went to a forced prostitute, but Maas reported that there are "numerous circumstantial clues" which make it evident that the prostitute is not a willing sex worker.

"We know that forced prostitution takes place in particular areas. That means that clients who seek out those opportunities know precisely where they are going - different prices are charged there," the Justice Minister said, adding that the prices were usually lower when a woman was being exploited.

Under the new law, pimps who exploit or violently force a person into prostitution would also face harsher punishments, including jail time ranging from six months to 10 years.

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No 'general ban' on prostitution

Maas was quick to point out that the law is not about prohibiting prostitution, but rather about raising the stakes for all human traffickers. He believes that banning prostitution would not make it disappear, but rather that it would then be entirely "soaked into illegality."

"That is why we don't believe in announcing a general ban on prostitution, but rather [addressing] very specifically where exploitation and forced prostitution is visible and provable," he said, adding that a ban "would negatively impact all prostitutes."

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German member of the European Parliament and member of the Green party, said that the draft bill merely executed a European Union directive on the issue, and behind schedule, too.

"One should add that an EU-directive is being implemented here - one which was to be implimented by 2013."

Some women's right's activists believe the draft law does not go far enough to protect women. Sabine Constabel, a social worker from Stuttgart, told "Morgenmagazin" that the draft law would keep Germany's status as "Europe's brothel" intact.

Constabel said setting an age limit of 21 for prostitutes would be helpful, since it could cut down on the number of young, Eastern European women who are forced into the sex trade. However, the measure has already been dismissed by Germany's ruling coalition-partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), according to Constabel.

The draft law will be debated by Germany's cabinet on Wednesday and will then pass to parliament for approval. Angela Merkel's cabinet has already

approved a new law with increased regulations for legal prostitution

in March, making condom usage obligatory, among other changes.

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