‘Good service guarantee’: German brothels get quality seal & rating

‘Good service guarantee’: German brothels get quality seal & rating
German brothels have begun receiving approval seals as the country’s sex industry association evaluates prostitutes' working conditions and service quality. The measure is aimed at ensuring quality and transparency, as well as improving the industry’s image.

The German brothel owners’ association (BSD) has devised a new assessment system for brothels and a special approval seal, said “to oppose the general slander and many false notions about the structures and working procedures” in the industry, according to a statement on its website.

“The BSD quality label provides controlled quality, transparency and seriousness of the prostitution industry,” it reads.

To receive a thumbs-up from the association, brothels have to undergo three stages of evaluation. The first step checks who the owner of the brothel is, how they can be reached, how big the brothel is and whether it meets the minimum working requirements outlined in the country’s prostitution law.

In addition, brothel owners will have to pledge to combat violence, coercion and crime and provide fair, responsible and hygienic working conditions. The seal also confirms that prostitutes work independently and voluntarily.

The final stage evaluates the brothels in a so-called “crown” rating, from one to six, for providing equipment and extra services such as food, a gym and events.

One customer, John, called the seal “a finally verifiable criteria,” which guarantees he will get “good, professional service of self-conscious sex workers,” as quoted in the BSD statement.

"We are tired of being discriminated against. We are a normal business enterprise," said one brothel owner in Berlin, as cited by OVB Online.

Although the association emphasizes the positive intentions behind the introduction of the seal, it added the initiative is “primarily a product of advertising.” So far, more than a dozen brothels across Germany have been granted the seal. 

The seal has earned skepticism from some, including Sandra Novak, a former sex worker and founder of Sisters, an organization that helps women quit the profession. Novak called it “a mockery” to consider an approval seal as confirmation that prostitutes are self-employed and independent.

"To try to put a seal of approval on whether a person working in prostitution is not in a desperate - or forced - situation, is not a victim of crime or human trafficking, is dubious, because no one apart from the person themselves and the people doing it to them can know 100 percent for sure," she wrote in a blog post.

While prostitution has been legal in Germany since 2002, there were more than 400 victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2015 alone, according to Spiegel, citing figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office.