World Congress on Women’s Health – Dublin 2017

Title: 15 Years after adoption of the legalization of prostitution in Germany, evaluating the impact on and the consequences for women’s mental health.

Presenter: Dr. Ingeborg Kraus

Where: 07.02.2017 in Dublin –

Introduction/Objective: Germany instituted a law in 2002 that legalized prostitution without any regulation in an attempt to normalise it as a job like any other. It was put in place because it was argued that it wasn’t prostitution that was traumatizing but the stigmatization of these women by society. Fifteen years after passing the law, my colleagues in the field of Psychology and I have analysed the impact of the law on prostition itself and on womens health. This symposium will present the key observations based on direct clinical work & analysis of patient studies, of the mental health impacts of prostitution on women involved in the German sex industry over the last 15 years. I will outline positive approaches as medical practitioners to support and assist women who suffer mental ill-health as a consequence of this experience, and finally; to reflect on a number of recommended policy changes with the objective of more broadly improving the situation.

Methods: Patient studies, literature, cooperation with people working on the front line with women in prostitution.

Results: Extremely negative impact of the established legislative regime directly on mental health of women in the German sex industry overall. The evolution of a changed profile of women in the sex industry in Germany with an increase in women from more heavily constrained and coerced situations and the compound negative effect this has on mental health. A more challenging situation for practitioners, violence against women’s services and mental health advocates in Germany to overcome. Gender sensitive approaches yield positive outcomes in some cases.

Conclusions: The need to reflect carefully on preventative measures which lie in overall policy provision to reduce the exploitation and trauma to women in the sex industry. Additionally, development of and access for women to specialized, gender sensitive mental health services to reduce the harm to women’s mental health through prostitution are essential.