Many people believe that Germany legalised sex work in 2002. However, sex work was already legal since 1927.
Instead, the new law removed the concept of “bad morality” and recognised sex work as labour so that sex workers have a legal right to health insurance and pension. The law replaced the ban of “promoting prostitution” by one of “exploiting prostitutes”. It also created an offence for the crime of human trafficking.
Brothel owners have the right to assign a workplace and schedules but sex workers always keep their right to refuse clients and sexual practices they don’t want. Jobseekers are not obliged to take a job as a sex worker and the German government’s evaluation report showed that 86.9% of sex workers had health insurance.
Despite criticism, there is no evidence that human trafficking has increased in Germany. The number of victims identified by the police has constantly decreased from 1235 in 2003 to 542 in 2013.
It is true that many sex workers feel the law didn’t improve their condition, which may be explained by the fact that the national law is not properly implemented especially in the more conservative Landers of Bavaria and Saxe. Many places continue to enforce local bylaws which criminalise sex workers, in particular those working on the streets.