The city of Bonn, Germany, collected around $20,000 last year from prostitution taxes paid via automated curbside pay stations or "sex meters." Under the new program, sex workers are required to purchase tickets to work the streets at night, the Associated Foreign Press reports.
While a number of other German cities collect taxes from prostitutes working in brothels, Bonn became the first city to extend general prostitution taxes to workers soliciting clients on the street when it introduced the sex meters last August, according to the AFP.
The sex meters charge prostitutes a flat nightly rate of $8.65 for the right to solicit clients on the street between 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to The New York Times. City estimates place the number of sex workers at around 200, with about 20 of them working the streets on any given night.
It was unclear whether the city would recoup costs from installing the Siemens-built machines around the city, which cost $11,575 for installation plus the cost of security guards hired to protect workers using them, according to The New York Times.
In addition, the city paid to construct special wooden garages, or "consummation areas," near the machines where customers can park their cars and have sex, Reuters reported.
City officials were pleasantly surprised when the machines earned around $400 the first weekend and went on to earn around 14,000 Euro, or $18,200, by the year's end, according to the AFP.
"We are satisfied with that and plan to continue levying the tax," a city spokeswoman told AFP.
Between taxes paid by prostitutes in brothels and on the street, Germany collected around $326,000 last year.
Franz-Reinhard Habbel, a spokesman for the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, told The New York Times he expects other German cities to follow in Bonn's footsteps as the nation's 11,000 municipalities are struggling with a combined $11 billion debt.
Germany legalized prostitution in 2002 as part of an effort to regulate the financial working conditions of prostitutes, Francesca McCaffery explained in The Utopianist.
McCaffery is not convinced the legalization has actually helped the lives of sex workers, but is not ruling out the possibility that it will in the future.
"It is commendable, certainly, for these governments to work to improve and legitimatize the life of a prostitute. But sex workers continue to be ostracized, exploited, and abused," McCaffrey wrote in The Utopianist. "Perhaps ... prostitution will continue to become more legitimized, better tolerated, and better understood. Until then, others continue to fear that the laws help mask a harsh reality that persists beyond a veneer of legality."
"Time will yet tell if Germany’s progressive stance on prostitution will improve the lives of sex workers, discourage organized crime, or properly clamp down on human trafficking," she said.
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