According to estimates from the United Nations, there are currently 30 million enslaved people throughout the world—more than at any other time in history. People are recruited, violently deceived, and trafficked. Their vulnerability is taken advantage of, and they are exploited in various ways. In Austria, as is the case in other EU countries, sexual exploitation of girls and women—especially in the form of prostitution—is the most common form of exploitation that is taking place. The victims come from lands like Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, China and Nigeria. Their passports are usually confiscated; and they are threatened, monitored, and manipulated to the point where they rarely escape or even seek help.
According to Palermo-protocol (Art. 3 lit. a), the United Nations’ definition of human trafficking is:
“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
According to the Austrian Criminal Bureau’s 2015 yearly report addressing human trafficking, 62 victims of human trafficking were identified, and 67 suspects reported as per the correspondent paragraph § 104a from the criminal code. That very same year, however, there were only 5 criminals convicted because of these crimes in Austria.
» Austrian Platform against Exploitation and Human Trafficking
» BMEIA – Human Trafficking Task Force
» Palermo Protocol
Prostitution as the offering of paid sexual services between adults at cost is legal in Austria. In 2012 the Austrian Supreme Court overturned the so-called „Sittenwidrigkeit“ (“violation of morality”), which had kept prostitution illegal up until that point.
People who work in prostitution are generally considered self-employed from a labor law perspective, regardless of their actual working conditions.
There are different legal conditions under which sexual services are actually allowed to be offered depending on the jurisdiction of each province. The legislators from each province regulate the requirements for the working individuals, particularly regarding age, which work places are permissible, and which stipulations the businesses need to meet. This has led to a very diverse regulation landscape.
In Austria—as is the case in other countries like Germany and Holland—it has been decided to provide regulations for prostitution. This is based on the assumption that the government has a better chance to be able to positively influence the work regulations when prostitution is legal.
In the meantime, there is a so-called “StoppSexkauf” initiative in Austria that lobbies for a “Sexkaufverbot” (ban on buying sex) to be passed, as is the case in countries like Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and France.
The premise of this movement is that prostitution is not a profession like any other; rather it constitutes a breech in both the integrity and the dignity of women. She is therefore never acting out of free will, because women who engage in prostitution almost exclusively do so out of economic desperation, not because of their insatiable desire to have sex with many men. In a society which esteems equality and respect, this is not a line of work which promotes these values. Rather it undermines relationship between all women and men. It is only the johns and pimps who are punished by law in this model. Women who work in prostitution will not be penalized; rather they will receive counseling and other services.