Dominatrixes are to be allowed to resume work in Berlin for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown this weekend — three weeks ahead of the reopening of brothels next month.
Prostitutes will be able to offer their services again in the German capital from September 1, under strict new hygiene measures announced by the regional government.
But sex workers who do not offer intercourse, such as dominatrixes. will be allowed to resume business on Saturday.
“In view of the often very precarious situation of the people who work in the sex industry, it is necessary both from a health and a women's policy perspective to loosen restrictions,” the Berlin regional health ministry said in a statement.
“Otherwise there is a risk those affected will be forced to go underground and continue their work under conditions that are hazardous to health.”
Prostitution is legal in Germany but all forms of sex work, including professional BDSM, have been banned since March because of the coronavirus crisis.
While sex workers were allowed to resume business last month in neighbouring Austria and the Netherlands, and as long ago as May in Switzerland, Berlin is the first German region to lift restrictions.
Authorities in Amsterdam on Wednesday ordered people to wear face masks in the city's red light district as well as crowded shopping areas, amid concerns over rising infection rates. Among clusters being tracked was one at a strip club where at least one customer and 10 staff have tested positive, according to a statement from the health authority.
The lifting of the ban on sex work in Berlin comes after hundreds of sex workers from across Germany demonstrated in Hamburg last month to demand the right to return to work.
Financial support is available to Germany’s 33,000 registered sex workers. But there are believed to be as many as 30,000 unregistered prostitutes in the country who have no access to government help.
NGOs have warned the ban risks driving them into illegal work and exposing them to the danger of violence.
The ban has also affected professional dominatrixes. One identifying herself as Lady Johanna told Bild newspaper she had been forced to rely on online domination sessions for income during the lockdown.