While in Germany there is still no concept of how to reopen prostitution under corona conditions and thus end the disastrous situation of sex workers, in Austria they have decided to go ahead. As of 1 July, sex work will again be permitted in Germany’s neighbouring country.
The temporary ban on prostitution, which has been in force in the Alpine country since the lockdown, will expire on 30 June. Unlike in many other countries, Austrian sex workers were able to receive financial support from the federal hardship fund as self-employed persons, but many sex workers, clubs and businesses associated with the industry will probably breathe a sigh of relief when the ban is lifted. From 1 July, brothels will again be allowed to be opened throughout the country. This was confirmed to the news agency APA by the Austrian Ministry of Health.
Before the outbreak of the Corona crisis, about 8000 sex workers were officially registered, 3500 of them in Vienna alone. They all now have the opportunity to resume their work and accept clients.
Preparations for the reopening are thus in full swing throughout the country. The Ministry of Health is also working closely with representatives of industry organisations and counselling agencies on hygiene regulations and recommendations for protection. Already since the beginning of June, the programme for compulsory examinations by public health officers has been resumed in some regions of Austria.
Eva van Rahden is the head of Sophie, the counselling centre for sex workers of Volkshilfe Vienna. She is pleased with the decision: »We welcome the fact that sex work is allowed again. Some women have already made appointments with customers.«
The re-authorisation was also urgently needed because the total ban and loss of earnings simply mean that numerous sex workers were forced into illegality. All in all, even in Austria, people have felt largely left alone, according to van Rahden. The sex workers were poorly informed and many did not know how to help themselves other than to offer their services on the street.
Nevertheless, van Rahden believes that the majority of sex workers were very disciplined during the Corona period. »But we know from many women that they took the rules seriously and adhered to them.«
So now we will see to what extent clients and sex workers are willing to reopen the world’s oldest profession under the current conditions. Germany should look closely and learn from the experience gained in Austria.