GERMANY has become a hotspot for sex tourism after the legalisation of prostitution, the country's leading feminist campaigner has warned.
Alice Schwarzer, whose book, 'Prostitution: A German Scandal', was published last week, said sex tourists from France, Italy and Scandinavia travelled to Germany to visit its brothels.
They were attracted by a relaxed approach to prostitution and legal brothels, such as Cologne's Pascha, the largest in Europe, she explained.
"Germany today is a 'sex paradise' for foreigners, thanks to the 2002 reform, which permitted conditions that our neighbouring countries are amazed at – large brothels with low fees, flat rates and 'wellness'," Ms Schwarzer said, adding: "Foreigners travel from as far as Scandinavia and France by the busload."
Her comments come amid a debate about Germany's prostitution laws, which were relaxed in 2002 to make employing sex workers legal.
The aim of that change was to improve sex workers' rights and give them better access to pensions and health care. The use of child prostitutes and forcing women to sell sex remains illegal.
Feminist magazine 'Emma', which is published by Ms Schwarzer, this month launched a campaign to get prostitution banned in Germany once again.
Nearly 100 celebrities, academics and intellectuals quickly signed the magazine's anti-prostitution petition. But a counter camp is lobbying for the status quo to be maintained and for sex workers to be given more rights.
Germany's association of sex workers' own petition went live just days ahead of 'Emma' magazine's.
It calls for the current laws to remain intact and for prostitutes' rights to be improved.
Specifically, it demands the inclusion of sex workers in any political debate about prostitution as well as assurances that Germany will not follow Sweden's example by outlawing the use of prostitutes.
"Prostitution is not slavery. It is a professional activity where sexual services are offered for money," the petition states.
Estimates put the total number of sex workers in Germany at anywhere between 400,000 and a million.