Inverted sketch of a big-haired young woman in fishnets. The sketch is entitled “Harlot.”
German sex workers in Bonn have to feed the sex tax machine before they work their favorite corner. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/MeganRae/Flickr)

Prostitution has been a legal, taxable trade in Germany since 2002. While collecting taxes from brothels and sex clubs is a easy, getting sex workers on the street to pony up has proven more difficult. To help address the oversight, the city of Bonn has installed automated prostitute street meters so that the nightly sex tax can be collected.

Bonn depends upon sex tax for revenue

Sex tax machines on the streets of Bonn are projected to generate nearly $300,000 in revenue above what the sex tax already collects annually, reports Der Spiegel. The money is sorely needed to make up for Bonn’s budgetary shortfall, so frequent streetwalking areas will have prostitute meters soon. So long as sex workers pay $8.63 per night into the machine – which resembles a parking ticket distributor – they can work highly trafficked street corners without additional threat of monetary penalty or employment ban.

Most freelancers come from abroad

Bonn city spokeswoman Monika Frömbgen told German news agency DPA that the sex tax collection problem is related to the fact that many streetwalkers are foreign and speak little German. As such, they had difficulty completing the tax papers. The prostitute street meters are intended to be a streamlined solution.

“It’s not fair that some women who work in establishments like sex centers or sauna clubs are taxed only because we can find them more easily there,” Frömbgen said. “Communities have a bit of room to adjust their own taxes, and we are legally granted the right to levy these taxes.”

Meters run during peak hours

Tickets printed by the automated prostitute meters authorize the practice of the oldest profession near busy Bonn street corners between the hours of 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. While the sex tax meters are the first of their kind in Germany, the city of Dortmund reportedly used to require that prostitutes purchase a day ticket at local gas stations. Now, streetwalking in Dortmund is verboten.

Some sex workers say nein

Streetwalking, which is legal but looked upon with some contempt in Germany, has remained popular. As such, Bonn city planners worked to isolate the trade to specially marked areas of the city. For instance, special garages are provided for customers to park, privately and legally. Bodyguards for sex workers are also provided.

Despite the favorable conditions, Bonn prostitutes associated with the sex worker advocacy group BUFAS object to the flat tax.

“We are against such special rules, and favor the legal equality of every worker, including in matters of taxes,” said Beate Leopold, a BUFAS representative from Nuremberg.

Leopold told Der Spiegel that income taxes should be levied on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a universal flat tax for all types and income levels of sex workers.

Advocating the rights of sex workers

Sources

Der Spiegel International: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,783438,00.html

Newser: http://www.newser.com/story/127376/germany-installs-street-meters-for-prostitutes.html

Political Dick: http://www.politicaldick.org/2011/08/bonn-germany-meter-maidens/

Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/2011/08/30/sex-tax-meters-introduced-for-german-prostitutes

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