What is the oldest shop in history


Romina Schmitter

To person

Born in 1939; until 2001 teacher for German, history, politics; Publications on the history of the women's movement and employment, Mathildenstr. 12A, 28203 Bremen. [email protected]

The idea that prostitution is "the oldest trade in the world" is spread - not only at the regulars' table - up to the present day. However, the historical reality is different. The oldest manifestations of prostitution - from the holy wedding to the pairing of the hierodules to apotropaic or disastrous prostitution - went back to sacred rites. In Greek and Roman antiquity, prostitutes, apart from freed hetaires and courtesans, were slaves; in modern times they were criminalized as "whores" and since 1700 regulated by the state as "dissolute women".

The sexual service of mostly female people can at least in the Federal Republic of Germany itself, since the entry into force of the "Law Regulating the Legal Relations of Prostitutes" on January 1, 2002, be described as a trade with restrictions. That - as Monika Heitmann, the chairwoman of the Bremen association "Nitribitt", said in 1999 - "the oldest trade ... actually (is) none", [1] is illustrated below using the example of the 19th and 20th centuries will be. [2] In the 19th century prostitution took place exclusively, in the 20th century mainly in brothels. They had been abolished during the Reformation, but were reintroduced since 1700, first in Prussia, then in the states of the Rhine Confederation under French rule, and finally in most areas of northern and eastern Germany.

In 1794, the Prussian "General Land Law" stipulated (ยง999) that "dissolute women ... (must) go to whore houses that are tolerated under the supervision of the state". But while land law still referred to prostitutes as "women", "who want to run a trade with their bodies", [3] the brothel regulations of the 19th century said that prostitution was not a trade in the true sense of the word. The Bremen regulations of 1852, which were based on a Hamburg version, said that the "girls drawn in", even if they had to pay taxes, should not believe that "their shameful and reprehensible trade (...) was to be equated with other permitted trades "; the taxes would "only be raised to cover the necessary costs of their police supervision and the healing of diseases (...) which the public girls themselves through their dissolute way of life". [4]


The background to the strict distinction between prostitution and "permitted trades" was the verdict of "immorality". The view that prostitution is "immoral" has existed since the Reformation. In medieval cities, prostitution - sanctioned by Catholic theology - was not only tolerated, but even sponsored, by city councils as the "lesser evil" in contrast to permanent adultery or sexually motivated crimes. However, in his work "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation" and in a letter that had the abolition of "Hurerey" as its sole object, Martin Luther demanded that it be absolutely prohibited. Because the "women" or "whores" would not prevent adultery and sexual crimes, but make them possible. Luther even went so far as to equate prostitution with murder and theft, that is, with crimes that were punishable by death in his day, when he wrote: A city that tolerates "whores" could just as well "set up murderers and thieves". [5]

This view was still held, even if only indirectly, in the Reichstag debates during the imperial era. At the session of March 14, 1900, a member of parliament pleaded for the closure of all brothels, considering that the prohibition of adultery in the Ten Commandments was not "in the middle between murder and theft" for nothing and "so little You want to make a pact with (...) the sins against the fifth or the seventh commandment (...), so little can you make a pact with the sin against the sixth commandment ". [6] Soon afterwards, this religious justification was also legally founded. In a judgment of 1901, the Reichsgericht argued with Section 138 of the Civil Code, which came into force the year before, which referred to "immoral legal transactions" and "usury" and any "legal transaction that offends against morality" as "void" designated. Since prostitution was considered "immoral", every prostitute found herself in a legal vacuum. This meant that she was denied all rights of traders, even the right to be paid for her sexual services.

The conception of the "immorality" of prostitution outlasted all legislative amendments and political upheavals until the end of the 20th century. Although brothels and control streets of the Weimar Republic had been banned at least temporarily since 1927 - they were reopened in 1933, although the "sexual revolution" and reform of sexual criminal law in the Federal Republic of the 1960s and 1970s led to the modernization of conservative values, it still came in the 1980s to judgments of the highest judiciary, which were almost seamlessly linked to those of the Imperial Court of the imperial era. The Federal Administrative Court ruled on July 15, 1980 that "sexual immorality (...) is an immoral and in many respects socially unlawful activity" [7] and in 1993 the federal government drew the proven conclusion from the stigma of immorality that "the practice of prostitution cannot be regarded as a trade in the commercial sense ". [8]

Trade law

In addition to "immorality", since the beginning of the 19th century modern trade law was another reason why prostitution was not considered a trade. In the medieval class society, the "permitted trades" were organized in guilds and accordingly strictly regulated. With the introduction of the freedom of trade, freedom of movement and independence took the place of compulsory guilds: In the Prussian Edict of 1810 King Friedrich Wilhelm guaranteed his "subjects (...) the right" to "the entire extent of our states, both in the cities and in the flat country (...) to do business (...) and to be protected by the authorities ". [9]

The Reichsgewerbeordnung, which went back to the trade regulations of the North German Confederation adopted in 1869, also dealt with "women who independently operate a trade"; they could "independently conclude legal transactions in matters of their trade", and it "made no difference whether they operate the trade alone or in association with other people (...)". [10] The fact that this freedom of trade for "dissolute women" was not valid is evident from the provisions of the aforementioned brothel regulations, among other things, from the fact that they are required to recruit customers for their work "with a prison sentence of 2 to 8 days (...) for water and bread "was forbidden. They also had to "submit to the medical examination twice every eight days or, if necessary, in an even shorter period of time (...), which must be carried out in their apartment, namely in the morning hours", whereby "the doctor took care of the girls who did not attend the examination immediately to the police (shows) ". [11]