Originally by: NICHOLAS KULISH, New York Times
BERLIN—The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few bounds.
Bonn is not the only city in Germany to charge such a tax, but it is the first to hit upon the idea of a ticket machine that prints out receipts for the nightly flat fee of about $8.50 for the privilege of streetwalking. The meter went into service over the weekend, and by Monday morning had collected $382 for the city’s coffers.
Prostitution is legal in Germany. Attempts are often made to regulate the industry, unionize the workers and tax the proceeds, but they are not always effective, given both the discretion and the unpredictability that are inherent in the business.
The women wait for customers on a stretch of the Immenburgstrasse in a largely industrial part of the city. In addition to the Siemens-built meter machine, which cost $11,575 including installation, the city has built special wooden garages nearby where customers can park their cars and have sex there.
“The women in the bordellos and the sauna clubs also pay the tax, and so should those working on the streets,” said Monika Frombgen, a spokeswoman for the city.
The city estimates that it has 200 sex workers, of whom about 20 ply their trade on the street. The Bonn government spends $116,000 a year for a private security company to guard the area and to provide security for the sex workers.
Under the new meter system, street prostitutes must purchase the tickets to work between 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. Leaflets explaining the system, translated into several languages, are handed out to the prostitutes. After one warning, a sex worker caught working without a ticket would be fined up to $145.