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Berlin: Public Toilets Serve as ‘Sex Boxes’ at Site Known for Street Prostitution

In Berlin’s ‘Tempelhof-Schöneberg’ district, a discussion about street prostitution in ‘Kurfürstenstrasse’ and the problems it causes has been going on for a long time. Now the district mayor wants to install more public toilets which serve as ‘sex boxes’ as well.

For decades, part of ‘Kurfürstenstrasse’ in Berlin has been known for prostitution. A long time ago, mostly German sex workers took their suitors to apartments they rented nearby. Today, mostly Bulgarian and other Eastern European women offer sex for money close to the intersection with ‘Potsdamer Strasse’.

Protection for Sex Workers

Residents living there have been complaining about the situation to the authorities numerous times. The problem is that used condoms and other items are being found all over the neighborhood. Also some prostitutes offer their services in front of a school. At night, they have sex in public and they use parks and gardens as toilets.

In order to resolve at least the latter problem, the district had two ‘eco toilets’ installed, in tiny wooden huts. Not only did those take care of the toilet issue, but they became ‘sex boxes’ as well. That way, the sex is going on out of sight of the neighbors. Now, District Mayor Angelika Schöttler told RBB TV, she wanted to add more of those toilets for that purpose.

Sex workers in Berlin are waiting for suitors in the summer of 2019.
This is the usual sight on ‘Kurfürstenstraße’ (June 2019). Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The additional ‘eco toilets’, which work without complicated water installations, will have a second door. That way the prostitutes are supposed to be protected. In case a suitor tries to keep a sex worker from leaving through one of the doors, she can still use the other one.

Sex in Staircases

While residents want a prostitution ban in their neighborhood, because they are sick of all the sex going on in staircases and bushes, the district believes that relocating the prostitution area would not be helpful since it would happen somewhere else if it did not take place at ‘Kurfürstenstrasse’. As long as the authorities know where it is going on, they can intervene when things get out of hand.

In the past months, politicians have discussed several options, including moving it all to Tempelhof Airfield and installing large ‘sex boxes’ for cars or bicycles under the elevated trains nearby. But none of those partially very unconventional ideas convinced those who decide in the district.

Making everybody completely happy is not possible here. But making sure the paid sex is happening out of sight of pedestrians and residents, including children, is an important step. At the same time, another grave issue is not being resolved by setting up more ‘sex toilets’, namely forced prostitution.

Unregistered Sex Workers

Especially young women from villages in Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries are being forced into prostitution by brutal pimps. In the past years, several court proceeding against Bulgarian pimps took place in Germany and Switzerland. But many believe those cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Only few women affected have the possibility or the courage to flee and to tell police about their ordeal.

While prostitution is legal in Germany, exploitation or forced prostitution are not. In Berlin, around 8000 prostitutes offer their services on streets, in apartments and brothels. But there is a problem here too: All sex workers are supposed to register, because prostitutes need to pay taxes like everyone else. In addition, they are supposed to undergo frequent medical checks.

In Berlin, public toilets like this one are being used as 'sex boxes' by prostitutes and their customers.
Prostitutes and their suitors have sex in these public toilets. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

An institution called ‘Probea’ gives out ‘Whore Passes’ which prove the women who hold them are registered. But thousands of prostitutes do not have that kind of document. Therefore the authorities and doctors can not track their situation, their health, their income or anything.

Discussion to Continue

One thing is certain: While the public toilets used as ‘sex boxes’ might get rid of one or two aspects of the problem at ‘Kurfürstenstrasse’, several issues remain unresolved. The discussion and the complaints will continue.