Dominatrix Comes Out On Top


Hamburg honours late sex workers’ activist

Domenica Niehoff, Germany’s most famous prostitute and activist for sex worker’s rights, who died in 2009, is to have a street named in her honour. Alongside Ms. Niehoff, there are nine other women after whom 10 streets in Hamburg are to be named, as a part of the city’s initiative to give more recognition to women.

Ms. Niehoff started to fight for the rights of sex workers in 1970s and campaigned for legalisation of prostitution. In 1990s Niehoff left prostitution and dedicated herself to further social work. In 1991 she cofounded the project Ragazza e.V., which is still active today.  Ragazza e.V. is a shelter for prostitutes and female drug addicts where they can get a warm bed, needed medical attention and free advice without being judged. Furthermore, it provided women with the first room for safer drug use nationwide.

Real progress has been made since then- Germany legalised prostitution in 2002, and from July 1st 2017, the use of condoms in prostitution will become obligatory.

At the same time, sex workers in the UK are still campaigning for full decriminalization of prostitution, including brothel keeping and working on the streets. The current campaign Make Mum Safer “asks everyone to think about sex workers as real people,” and aims to highlight that most are mothers. Decriminalisation would provide safer working conditions and enable sex workers to report incidences of abuse, without fear of being arrested.

One of the major concerns is that there are very few vocal sex worker activists, due both to the legal aspect and the stigma that surrounds the profession. Most of the suggestions about what would be best for sex workers comes from people who don’t have anything to do with the industry.

The honouring of Domenica Niehoff might make sex workers around Europe more comfortable in voicing their opinions and suggesting improvements they want and need. Finally, having the city of Hamburg give her the respect it has given to other women involved in the project can be seen as an invitation for the society to treat sex workers as we would any other person.

[Žad Novak]

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