One of Index’s journalists, Veronika Munk, published her latest report book, entitled Kéjutca – Magyar szex euróért (loosely translated as Desire Street – Hungarian sex for euros). The book is about the Hungarian sex workers living in Germany, where they represent the two third of the profession. Munk has been collecting stories in the field in Germany for 6 months, continually publishing these on Index – reports mno.hu.
The following is an interview that Magyar Nemzet conducted with the reporter.
Prostitution, lives of sex workers are things that everyone is interested in, but almost nobody talks about in public. What made you take such an interest in this topic?
There was a woman, Böbe, working in Northern-Germany, in Bremerhaven, who contacted us at Index. She’s an employee at a company, which rents 6-8 square meter workshops and apartments to the workers there. Böbe is responsible for collecting the rent money and the renting process.
How many Hungarian sex workers are there in Bremerhaven?
There is only one street, the Lessingstrasse, where this kind of work is allowed. There are approximately 170 women, two third of them Hungarian, who are working in the glass cabins.
What do the interviewees say: why is it better to pursue this line of work in Germany, than in Hungary?
Even though prostitution is legal in Hungary, authorities are doing their best to make it hard. German authorities believe that if they allow prostitution, then there will be less illegal accidents or incidents. Women choose Germany because they can work in a more relaxed atmosphere, thanks to the more liberal laws on prostitution. There is even a police subdivision in Bremerhaven especially for the red light districts; the police are doing a monthly inspection on the street with the help of an interpreter. Although the police are very helpful, the Hungarian women do not trust them fully – no wonder, looking at the situation at home.
How much money do they make at Bremerhaven?
They told me that they make about 2-8 thousand euros per month, but they have expenses like the daily 80 euro rent and the work accessories. Let’s not forget that all of these girls are sharing their money with someone.
There is a girl in the book, Berta, who was persuaded by her boyfriend, Krisztián, to become a prostitute – she regularly gives him her money. It is revealed in your book that this situation is not uncommon for these women.
Men like Krisztián know what they are doing: they give love, but in return, they take something from their women. It’s rather a psychic dependence on the side of the women: they think that they are building a future together from the money gained as sex workers. Someone whom I would call a pimp, they’d call their lover, partner, father of their children.
What about the rest of the money? What are they saving for?
Most of them are saving for their own flat or a business venture. Almost all of them have at least one child, they are brought up by relatives at home, in Hungary, but sometimes they bring along the smallest ones with them. These women argue that the reason why they are working in this field is to provide a safe future for their children.
Do these dreams come true?
Not really. I’ve met several sex workers who lost their money quite easily – they don’t know how to handle big money. Yet, there are those who spend the money on their children’s education, or even those give every penny to their relatives, their boyfriends.
What kind of family and social background do these girls have?
A lot of them are from the foster system, others had a rough childhood, there are others even who are from good families, or more aged women, who have adult children at home. A lot of them passed their high school final exams, have diplomas, but I even met a domina who used to teach religion. The stories are all different, but there is one thing in common: make good money fast.
Have you met anyone who gave up along the way?
Only one woman, who managed to get out, but many other who kept saying that they’ll stop eventually, but the next time I visited Lessingstrasse, they were still there.
Why do they want out?
Because they don’t like it. The male clients usually think that these women are crazy for sex and they couldn’t be more wrong. Most of the time they are disgusted by the clients, they hate the sex work, deeming it a necessary bad.
This line of work is not free of risks at all. Did your interviewees tell you about any incidents where the clients or pimps were harassing them?
The police reports and statistics show that there are very few cases like this. The women rarely go to the police when they are beaten up by their lovers or their pimps. However, there is an on-going trial in Bremen, where a Hungarian woman – who used to work on Lessingstrasse – claims that her pimps brutally beat her up and forced her into prostitution.
Who are the clients?
Bremerhaven is a port city, the women know when a new ship is arriving with thousands of men employees on board. The majority of the clientele are Muslims or Asian, but on several occasions, the social workers escorted disabled clients into the district. On weekends, before a party, hordes of young men go there, but they are not liked by the sex worker community. They prefer older men, who are more polite, calculable, and respect the business’s rules.
In your book, it is revealed that sex workers have 12-16 hour shifts. How can this be bearable?
It’s tough, but since they don’t like, they try to make money as fast as they can. They don’t stay longer for 6-10 weeks usually, then they go home for a couple weeks, where they buy clothes for the kids, renovate the house, and then return to work, and so on, and so on…
featured photo: http://www.lessingstr.com