German City Introduces Prostitution Parking Machines

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When Germany legalized prostitution in 2002, it presented an interesting problem to the city of Bonn. It wasn’t that prostitution wasn’t popular, but rather that the government needed to find a way to collect taxes from freelance prostitutes on the city streets. No easy task. The solution by city was elegant and utilitarian: Parking meters.

Well, not really parking meters. Tax meters, actually. During the hours of legal prostitution, 8:15PM to 6AM, freelance prostitues must have the printed receipt from the meter on their person, lest they face stiff fines or possibly being banned from working in the sex industry. Prostitutes pay about $8.70 for a license, which is sharply contrasted to the $125 fine they’d face for not having one.

The solution follows in the footsteps of other ingenious creations by the city of Bonn to better regulate prostitution. For instance, when sex workers and their johns started, ah, “doing business” on the streets or in people’s yards, the city built a special “consumation area” on the outskirts of town. The Week describes them thusly:

…six garage-like wooden boxes for drive-up johns to park in during their assignations, complete with an alarm for the prostitutes if things get too rough.

Of course, not everyone is pleased about the machines. Sex worker advocates say that it is unfair to tax prostitues for their nightly work when the government already takes a cut through the worker’s income tax. I’ll let the idea of prostitues filing income tax settle in for a moment. Supporters of the meters say that it simply puts freelance prostitutes on equal footing with sex workers in bordellos and clubs, who are similarly taxed.

The meters are apparently successful in bringing in money for the city; after its first night of operation, one meter had $375 in it. However, that might be a misleading figure. The Discoblog points out that since the city has only 20 freelance prostitutes, the meter should have only raked in $175 in one night. Curious.

(Discoblog, The Week, image via clapstar)

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