From its origins as a Nazi airfield during World War II to its recent 2008 transformation into a massive park, Berlin’s Templehof airfield has served an assortment of purposes over the years. CNN reports that Stephan von Dassel, the mayor of Berlin’s central Mitte district is calling for a restriction on street prostitution in his district and proposing the installation of “Verichtungsboxen” booths for sex workers and their clients.
According to Dassel, the number of places where sex workers can privately take clients is shrinking and the visibility of pimps is threatening neighborhood safety. Other politicians have suggested installing the booths under the U-Bahn railway bridge near Kurfürstenstrasse, but Dassel proposes that the open-air fairground of Zentraler Festplatz or the former Templehof airport would be a better fit.
Sex booths first sprung up in the mid-1980s in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands and have since spread to more European cities. In 2001, they were launched in Cologne, Germany, where facilities include a gated entrance, security cameras, and alarm buttons in each booth. The cities of Essen, Bonn, and Zurich have since adopted the model.
Dassel hopes to create better conditions for the sex workers and cites reports from the city’s ambulance service which details daily violence against sex workers from pimps, with only a small percentage of that abuse being reported. He defends his bid, saying that regulated sex booths would also reduce the “negative impact of prostitution on the residential environment.”
Others worry that the new restrictions on public prostitution will further isolate an already vulnerable population.