Forced prostitution

Facts about forced prostitution – Legal situation

Human trafficking is a criminal offence in Germany. Forced prostitution as a form of human trafficking is governed in § 232a of the German Penal Code (StGB). Forced prostitution is also punishable under the umbrella of “exploitation of prostitutes” and “pimping”.

Overview of contents

Forced prostitution is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking is a form of international organised crime. It is the fastest growing type of crime worldwide.

Human trafficking has many facets. On the one hand, criminals use the economic and social crisis in so-called emerging and developing countries to give people hope of a better life by luring them under false pretences and then forcing a dependency by means of threats, violence or debt bondage. On the other hand, people grow up in exploitative systems and are conditioned to be exploited as slaves, knowing no other way.

People are treated like goods: they are bought, sold and systematically exploited – human trafficking is modern slavery.

Human trafficking is officially broken down into different types:

  • Labour exploitation
  • Bonded labour or debt bondage
  • Prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation → Forced prostitution
  • for the purpose of organ trafficking
  • unique to children: as child soldiers, for adoption, for begging, stealing or robbery

Definition of human trafficking

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the Protocol) defines human trafficking as follows:

“Trafficking in persons” means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.”

Human trafficking therefore always comprises three components:

  1. The act: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
  2. The means: threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability
  3. The aim: Exploitation

German laws on prostitution, forced prostitution and human trafficking

§ 232 of the German Penal Code (StGB) defines the criminal offence of human trafficking in Germany. Forced prostitution as a form of human trafficking is outlined in § 232a of the German Penal Code (StGB). This is also punishable under § 180a StGB with regard to exploitation of prostitutes and § 181a StGB on pimping.

How is prostitution legally regulated in Germany?

Since 2002, prostitution in Germany is no longer considered immoral but is rather a recognised trade. The Prostitution Act has been in force since 2017. It sets out rules around the topic of prostitution to prevent force and exploitation, and to protect those working in prostitution. It primarily comprises the obligation to health advice, registration as a prostitute and a licence requirement to run a prostitution network.

Further information about the Act is available here:

Prostitution figures in Germany

The German Federal Statistical Office is obliged to collect prostitution figures and provide the following data:

It is clear that despite legal registration requirements, only very few people are in fact registered and the majority of prostitution still takes place underground.

Each year, the German Federal Criminal Office provides insight into the human trafficking and exploitation situation including the topic of organised crime.

BKA – Report on Federal human trafficking situation from 2020 (→ bka.de)

  • Total criminal investigations into human trafficking: 465 in 2020 regarding human trafficking; due to sexual exploitation: 291 investigations (+1.4%)
  • A third of victims in the criminal investigations were from Germany.
  • 42.7% of victims whose age could be determined were under 21 years of age
  • One in five victims was officially registered in line with the Prostitution Act

Forced prostitution

Facts about forced prostitution – Legal situation

Human trafficking is a criminal offence in Germany. Forced prostitution as a form of human trafficking is governed in § 232a of the German Penal Code (StGB). Forced prostitution is also punishable under the umbrella of “exploitation of prostitutes” and “pimping”.

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