Prominent German politicians on Tuesday called for brothels to be closed indefinitely, extending their temporary closure due to coronavirus restrictions.
Sixteen lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU party and the center-left Social Democrats wrote a letter, seen by German media, to the premiers of the 16 German states warning that sex workers could become "super spreaders" of the virus.
Prostitution is legal in Germany, but different states and cities enforce different limitations on where and how sex workers can operate. All brothels have been closed since restrictions on public life and social distancing measures were introduced in March.
"It should be obvious that prostitutes could become epidemiological 'super spreaders' — sexual activities are, as a rule, not compatible with social distancing measures," the letter reads, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Among the signatories are former health minister Hermann Gröhe of the CDU and Social Democrat trade unionist Leni Breymaier, as well as practicing doctor Karl Lauterbach.
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Could Germany adopt the 'Nordic model?'
There are about 33,000 officially registered sex workers in Germany, though the government estimates the real number may be as high as 400,000. While legislation introduced in 2002 aimed to improve conditions for sex workers, many of these people still live and work in poor conditions and are also the victims of human trafficking or modern slavery.
In their letter, the German lawmakers express hope that the closure of the brothels could be a good opportunity to improve opportunities for sex workers in Germany.
"Re-opening the brothels will not help these women," the letter says. "Instead, they need apprenticeships, training or work in a secure job."
The letter calls for Germany to take the opportunity to adopt the "Nordic model," under which paying for sex is illegal but selling sex is not. Under this model, sex workers are offered help and services to leave the sex industry and offered education, for example language courses. In Germany, many sex workers come from eastern Europe.
As long as social distancing regulations remain in place in Germany, brothels are expected to remain closed.