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The Reeperbahn in Hamburg's St. Pauli district. But forced prostitution continues to be an issue as well. Here's a look at the history and policies.
How long has prostitution been legal? Prostitution has actually been legal or tolerated in Germany throughout history. Even in the s, police preferred a system of regulation so they could supervise prostitution, according to the book Prostitution by Eva-Maria Heberer.
Under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, brothels were banned in large parts of Prussia for some years, and prostitutes had to be registered. During the Weimar Republic, a campaign to fight venereal diseases adopted the notion that prostitution should not be criminalized, but rather controlled as far as where it could take place, such as not near schools or churches.
Prostitutes were also considered "asocial" by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. When the country split in two at the start of the Cold War, the two nations had very different policies. The communist East German or GDR government made prostitution illegal, as commercial sex work seemed to contradict their socialist agenda.
Still, the secret Stasi police would use prostitutes to blackmail people. In West Germany, prostitution was regulated and legislation required sex workers to obtain health certificates. Upon reunification, negotiations ultimately led to its current status as legalized.