Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery – Organised Crime in the Red Light District

On the new book* by Manfred Paulus

by Erika Vögeli

The rule of law, democracy, individual civil rights and liberties and respect for human dignity are undoubtedly among the most valuable achievements of European intellectual and legal history, and today, we enjoy them to an extent that hardly a generation has ever had before. Hence, a feeling of being more progressive and superior than countries in other regions of the world can sometimes be found in Western Europe. However, the recent book by Manfred Paulus, “Menschenhandel und Sexsklaverei – Organisierte Kriminalität im Rotlichtmilieu” (Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery – Organised Crime in the Red Light Milieu), counters this self-appraisal with a reality in which, in the midst of our constitutional states, people are turned into commodities, “the weakest and most helpless of a society being enslaved, used arbitrarily, deprived of their dignity, degraded and destroyed in an inhuman manner” (p. 7).

Manfred Paulus knows what he is talking about: 30 years of national and international investigative experience in the field of human trafficking and red-light crime, 25 years of prevention work on behalf of various organisations in Eastern and Southern Europe have led him into the darker parts of these areas and have sharpened his eye for the connections, for the mechanisms of dependency and for the ways of thinking and acting of the various parties involved. Furthermore, it has made him thoroughly familiar with the brutality of the red light milieu and the misery associated with it. All his lessons learned and insights have shown him one thing beyond doubt: The trend in some Western countries, which has led to so-called “more liberal“ legislation under slogans such as “non-discrimination”, “less repressive” sexual morals and a supposedly “more open” society, is an essential part of the problem. This development doesn’t do anything to protect the victims of the sex business, rather the opposite.

Lies, fraud and brute force

According to Manfred Paulus, the alleged voluntariness of prostitution is a myth. All the examples and experiences he describes clearly show that nothing is voluntary. More than 90 % of the women having to work in the red light milieu in Germany are foreigners, coming from Africa, South America, South-east Asia, but above all from South-east Europe. “They all have one thing in common: they come from poverty and many of them furthermore from broken and often catastrophic family circumstances. They all try to escape from an oppressive lack of prospects and from often precarious living situations and they want to have a little share in the prosperity and happiness of this world.” (p. 43) This makes them susceptible to tempting offers. However, without violence, often combinded with most brutal methods and deception, they probably would all return home as soon as possible, because what awaits them in Germany and elsewhere is nothing but hell. For example, Ben, who was sold to a child trafficker in Bangkok at the age of 12; she then was sold to a German sex tourist, who pretended to have a lucrative job for her in the catering trade in Germany; she finally was locked up in a shack where she had to “serve” rockers. Or Ioana from Romania – little did she know, that a pimp had forced her friend, who had been in Germany for some time, to recruit her with the idea that one could earn an enormous amount of money in Germany “as a cleaning lady”. Instead of being able to give her son a better life working in such a job, she finally became a nursing case and died after having been beaten by her pimp. Galina from Belarus earned too little for her baby and her mother, so she followed the offer of a fellow countryman for a well-paid job as a geriatric nurse in Poland – but instead, she was sold to the German boss of a call-girl ring. Afterwards, she was imprisoned, enslaved and deported to Germany. Zana from Bulgaria was promised a great job as a waitress, where she could earn an incredible amount of money compared with Bulgarian standards. The 17-year-old Maja, living in poorest conditions in Bucharest, considered a neighbour’s offer to work as a vegetable picker in Germany as the chance of a lifetime – she finally ended up in an apartment in Saarland, from where she was taken to a backyard brothel after being beaten and raped, and ordered: “You do everything the men want you to do.”
Others became victims of a “loverboy”: this is  an increasingly common method, where girls are pretended to be loved by young men and promised a wonderful and golden future. Systematically removed from their previous network of relationships, they are less and less able to escape the gradually increasing violence. Finally, they end up where they are expected to be: in a brothel. As the example of a law student documents, German girls are not immune to this. (pp. 22)
Recruitment and smuggling is the technical term for these processes: recruitment by fraudulently pretending false perspectives, which then very quickly give way to a brutal reality, namely when, during the smuggling phase, women are intimidated by means of threats, violence, drugs and criminalisation and their self-esteem is broken in order to make them “useful” for the “work” that awaits them (Chapter 4).

The myth of voluntariness …

It is brute, unspeakable force that prevails in this milieu – also “in plush brothels apparently beyond all doubt”, in which, according to the responsible brothel operators “voluntarily working and self-determined prostitutes” are in reality brutally exploited and deprived of their human dignity.
Manfred Paulus leaves no doubt: Reasoning that prostitution is “voluntary”, a “trade“ like any other, serves the operators of this business of slaveholders. It abandons the victims, the women and children, and leaves them to a violent milieu and, not least, prepares the ground for organised crime, which is widely to be found in this area. For organised crime, trafficking in human beings has an incomparable “advantage” compared to the drugs or arms trade, as Manfred Paulus bitterly remarks: “A kilogram of heroin or a Kalashnikov can only be sold once, then you have to reinvest. ‘Human goods’, on the other hand, can be exploited for many years or even decades – and they are constantly renewable.” (p. 121)

… favourite argument of of the milieu

Wherever prostitution has been declared a “voluntary service” and an “ordinary profession”, which one would like to distinguish from forced prostitution and sex slavery, the problem of trafficking in women and children has dramatically increased. Contrary to the argumentation of the proponents it has nothing contributed to protect the affected women, girls and children. On the contrary it is – Manfred Paulus can also demonstrate this from his rich experience – the favourite argumentation of the milieu and organised crime. It provides them with the necessary leeway to pursue their business as unhindered and undisturbed as possible.
This, according to Manfred Paulus, raises questions: “How is it possible that German legislation [and not only this one] and the red light milieus, at least in part controlled and dominated by criminals, and their interest groups are so close in their argumentation and assessment of the situation?” (p. 24) He considers different aspects: Economic interests in view of the fact that the business with sex which has grown into a market worth billions, has “unquestionably become an asset in the framework of the German gross domestic product (GDP).” It is also a well-known practice of the milieu operators to use prostitutes specifically to approach influential, powerful men in order to involve them, to create dependencies. The fear of embarrassing revelations then does its part to maintain or even promote the realm of shadows in the area of human trafficking and sex slavery. For example through a complying legislation.

Lobby work by the organised crime

The profiteers of the billion-dollar business are engaged also in other forms of lobbying: In addition to very successful non-governmental organisations for the protection of women and children, Manfred Paulus also describes some strange “aid agencies” – often generously funded by government agencies, the European Union and even some diaconies. What they have in common is the “voluntary” doctrine, which includes talk of “sex work is work”, a “common profession” etc. The fact is that they give the women seeking help little or nothing to get out of prostitution. Instead, they offer tips and tricks for “work”, offers for re-entry, further training and professionalisation – in prostitution of course.
In 2015 Amnesty International declared that it would in future advocate the legalisation of prostitution, as its restriction discriminates against people who cannot meet a human need “in the traditional way”. Manfred Paulus uses this example to show how targeted the milieu is in order to bring about appropriate legislation. Join and “pester mercilessly from within” was the lobbyist’s call, because: “Getting Amnesty on our side will give our goal a huge boost.” (pp. 180)

Mental and social damage

The author also raises the question of the individual and social damage of this whole development. For example in a “journey through the numerous punter forums on the Internet”, where one encounters “an often inhuman, deeply humiliating and offensive language”. “Every attempt to see even a hint of normality in the ‘profession’ of prostitution is brutally destroyed and ruined.” (p. 163) And he raises the question about the effect of such inhuman descriptions on society, the question about the image of women conveyed by them and the harmfulness of such ideas to society. After his explanations it is not surprising that an American study finds  “68 % of women in prostitution develop a stress disorder which is comparable in its intensity to that of war veterans and victims of torture”. (p. 164)
Already his look at the history of prostitution (Chapter 2) makes one thing especially clear: little has changed for the women or children concerned over the centuries or even millennia. One may take the self-evident and open use of violence centuries ago as worse – but coercion and brutal violence, humiliation, hopelessness and being at the mercy of others have a destructive effect on the lives of those affected, today as then.
Even the domina – eagerly presented as model of a free, self-confident woman – refers the idea of the “self-determined”, “voluntary” prostitute into the realm of the unreal: “‘When a woman takes money for sexual acts, it is always a servant activity’, a former dominatrix explains, and there are three reasons to do so and thus to enter prostitution: poverty, emotional problems or poverty and emotional problems.’” (p. 165)

Difficulties of police and justice

The author also draws on rich experience to describe the difficulties of policing and justice and not least the threats to democracy and the rule of law that result from this social development. The myth of voluntariness proves to be a real ideology of legal obstruction: Women are no longer victims, but “service providers“, and “through this legalisation police work in the milieu can become considerably more difficult or even impossible.” (p. 136) In view of the large number of red-light representatives in the courtrooms, women hardly dare to go to the police – if they had the freedom of movement at all. And right from the very beginning, they are taught the mafia law using appropriate methods, according to which treason is threatened with the most drastic punishments. The worst betrayal in the red-light milieu, however, would be if women “ever let it be known that they are not voluntarily engaged in prostitution, but are forced to do so” (p. 110). It is easy to understand that the work in this environment is very difficult and demanding for the police and the judiciary.
That this does not necessarily have to be the case, however, is shown by experiences in countries in which this whole wave of legalisation could not gain a foothold, such as Iceland, Norway, Canada, Northern Ireland, France, Ireland and Sweden, which Manfred Paulus describes in more detail.

Experiences with the Swedish model

Sweden also thought about a change of the prostitution laws – but with different preconditions and consequences: Here the purchase of sex was criminalised in 1998 and the punters were threatened with punishment. This legislation (the Swedish model) was based on Swedish society seeing prostitution basically as male violence against women and children.” (p. 145) Although in the run-up to the legislation only about one third of the Swedish population supported a corresponding ban on sex buying, in the meantime this is welcomed by 80 % of the women and 60–70 % of the men. Prostitution is now considered as unacceptable. Although it could not be brought to vanish totally even in Sweden, Manfred Paulus comes to a clear conclusion: There is “no way around measures similar to the ‘Swedish model’” if victims are really to be helped, human trafficking really to be curbed, the destructive consequences for victims and society really to be contained and organised crime in this area effectively to be stopped. (p. 148)

But an actual containment of the problem of sex slavery and human trafficking requires a societal rethinking in those countries which today rely on misunderstood liberty and openness. Without human morality – and this includes the unconditional protection and respect for human dignity of everyone – liberty degenerates into power of the stronger, bolder, most impudent.

Education and support

Efforts of numerous non-governmental organisations are pointing in the same direction. Manfred Paulus appreciates and supports their activities. Their informational and educational work in the countries most affected, often in very sensible cooperation with representatives of the police, is bearing fruit as the police and legal measures in these countries do.
But an actual containment of the problem of sex slavery and human trafficking requires a societal rethinking in those countries which today rely on misunderstood liberty and openness. Without human morality – and this includes the unconditional protection and respect for human dignity of everyone – liberty degenerates into power of the stronger, bolder, most impudent.
The book is hard to digest at times, but urgently necessary, and one feels on each page the commitment of the author who long since reached retirement age and could have turned to other things as well. He knows: To tolerate violence ultimately means to submit to it. With all the consequences. The book is a (renewed) call to all to become aware of the problem and to work towards the urgently needed rethinking in ones own environment – to protect the victims and the generation growing up, but also to protect and preserve democracy, and the rule of law.        •

* Paulus, Manfred. Menschenhandel und Sexsklaverei. Organisierte Kriminalität im Rotlichtmilieu. (Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery. Organised Crime in the Red Light Milieu.) Vienna 2020. ISBN 978-3-85371-467-6

”The voluntarism claimed by the milieu bosses, disseminated by the prostitution lobby and underlying German legislation, is a myth. Much would be achieved if it were to be admitted that this basic assumption of voluntary action is wrong in the context of the realities of the situation. It greatly favours and promotes the trade in the ‘commodities woman and child’ and sex slavery. It would achieve even more if it were recognised that this basic assumption of voluntary action legalises and continues to tolerate the illegal and criminal.“ (p. 9)

“The current balance of power in the German milieus is not only an indication and proof of the existence of long since well-functioning and proven networking structures, ranging from the Roma ghettos in Bulgaria, the poor areas of Romania, the crisis and war zones in the Ukraine, the Albanian mountains or of Chisinau, Belgrade or Budapest to the red-light districts of Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover and Ulm. They are also an indication and proof that trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution have become the most important and lucrative business area of the justifiably feared Organised Crime, alongside the closely related drug trafficking. This OC, which uses the red-light districts as gateways, is dangerous; its influence does not stop at the borders of the districts. It tries to penetrate further into society.” (pp. 119)

Manfred Paulus, retired First Chief Inspector, born in 1943, joined the police service in 1963 and headed the Department of Sexual Offences at the Ulm Criminal Investigation Department for many years. Accordingly, he has many years of experience in the field of red light crime, trafficking in women and children and pedocriminality not only in Germany but internationally. Among other things, he conducted investigations in Thailand on trafficking in human beings, researched the causes and conditions of trafficking in women in Belarus on behalf of the European Union and followed the traces of the traffickers to the countries of origin of the trafficked women and children in Eastern Europe. Since 2000 he has taught at various police academies. Even in his retirement, he continues to be active as an author of reference books, lecturer, speaker and internationally renowned expert on human trafficking and prostitution, not only in Germany but also in the recruitment countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. In the Republic of Moldova and in Belarus he conducts prevention measures and seminars on the subject of trafficking in women and supports the countries
of origin in their efforts to provide information and prevention.

Books of the author:

  • together with Adolf Gallwitz: Grünkram. Die Kinder-Sex-Mafia in Deutschland (Grünkram. The Child-Sex Mafia in Germany), Verlag Deutsche Polizeiliteratur 1998
  • Die Kinder-Sex-Mafia in Deutschland: Täterprofile, Pädophilenszene, Rechtslage (The Child-Sex Mafia in Germany: Offender Profiles, Paedophile Scene, Legal Situation), 1999
  • together with Adolf Gallwitz: Kinderfreunde – Kindermörder: Authentische Kriminalfälle/Fallanalysen/Vorbeugung (Child-Friends – Child-Murderers: Authentic Criminal Cases/Case Analysis/Revention), 2002
  • together with Adolf Gallwitz: Frauenhandel und Zwangsprostitution: Tatort Europa (Trafficking in Women and Forced Prostitution: Crime Scene Europe), 2003
  • together with Adolf Gallwitz: Pädokriminalität weltweit: Sexueller Kindermissbrauch, Kinderhandel, Kinderprostitution und Kinderpornographie (Pedocriminality Worldwide: Sexual Abuse of Children, Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography), 2009
  • Im Schatten des Rotlichts. Verbrechen hinter glitzernden Fassaden. Auftragsmorde, Sexsklaverei, Zuhälterei, Waffen, Drogen (In the Shadow of the Red Light. Crimes behind Glittering Facades. Contract Killings, Sex Slavery, Pimping, Guns, Drugs), 2016
  • Menschenhandel und Sexsklaverei entlang der Donau (Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery along the Danube), 2018

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