Julia beats her legs and takes a cigarette out of her leather case. Julia is not her real name, she chose her for the meeting. “For us escorts, anonymity is often the only protection,” she says, blowing blue smoke into the air of the coffee house at Vienna’s Westbahnhof. Julia takes 160 euros for one hour of her time, 1,300 for a whole night. She was never forced to exercise. She works independently, pays taxes and her profile can be found on several initiation sites on the internet.
“Whenever women from the red light are supposed to register or register somewhere, there are men behind who want to contribute to our work,” says the 40-year-old Austrian. In order to improve theirs, they need something completely different than the blockchain or an initiation platform. “It’s another attempt to create dependency, which is always dangerous for us.”
Hussy.io recently launched a wave of protest after winning a prize at a pitch. The startup of TU student Peter Tulala is registered in Estonia and won the overall victory at Startup Live on April 16th. “Disrupting the oldest profession” is the claim of the project. In the debate, many spoke up, but those whose work was supposed to be improved with the Blockchain service, nobody asked: sex workers.
Knappik and the sex worker Julia have been working for many years to improve the living and working conditions of prostitutes in Austria. Knappik, who has repeatedly been chosen as a forum connoisseur to spokesman for the forum, is almost every evening in Vienna’s red light district on the way to help members of sexworker.at. He knows her problems exactly.
And Julia and Knappik now also know the pitch deck of Hussy.io. This promises the following: Through a KYC procedure, sex workers should register on the platform with ID card including photo and health data, advertise their own services and pay for their announcements with the platform’s own token. Hussy.io wants to save the data of the women anonymously and forgery-proof on the Blockchain. According to statements, Tulala and his staff want to fight human trafficking and the criminalization of the industry. According to the startup, there are no big players in the multi-billion dollar market. He wants to change that through the blockchain.
The prominent jury justified their decision for Hussy.io with the fact that the company is the “only one among the participants, who would be eligible for a possible investment because of its development.” Despite questionable attribution (Hussy can be translated as “hussy”) , Blind text in the white paper and copy-protected images in the Pitch Deck. Hussy.io received an investment of over 10,000 euros and a wildcard for a performance at the 4Gamechangers Festival.
After that, the events rolled over. Graphic designer Lisa Weindorfer said goodbye to the applause of Twitteria from the organizations Startup Live and Female Founders. Bernhard Lehner, CEO of startup300, withdrew the investment offer. While it came to Shitstorm on Facebook, individual mentors and jury members of Startup Live no longer wanted to publicly speak out on the case.
“Always the same stitch”
“Many have an opinion about prostitution, but no one has any idea.” Next to Julia, scene heavyweight Christian Knappik is sitting on the washed-out sofa and starts rumbling. For the socially committed man, the behavior of Hussy.io is a “one-heartedness”. “It’s always the same thing: every brothel operator says it’s the only one who plays fair and wants to help women. Whether in the analogue or the digital world. After all, everyone wants to contribute to the work of women. “No woman would submit her personal data to any platform related to her job. The risk is too big.
Anonymity most important protection
“Experienced sex workers meticulously protect their images and their identity. They own several prepaid phones and are not on social networks, “says Julia. Many go by day to another profession, have family, husbands, circles of friends who have no idea of the activity. Anonymity is a must for this group: the fear of stigmatization, which would lead to a disarming, makes women cautious. “No illegals would show their passport to a suitor and certainly not upload it to an initiation platform. The risks are far too high. Whether authorities, hackers or pimps get access to the data, the fate of women and their families is at stake. None would voluntarily take that risk, “says Julia.
“An absurd theater”
She orders herself a still water. The air in the back room hangs in front of smoke deep over the tables. Again and again Julia Knappik interrupts and tells from her everyday life. The two have been a team for many years. She is also on the board of Sexworker.at. The club is a loose network of supporters who want to help actively. Female doctors, pharmacists and lawyers are as much a part of it as are active prostitutes who want to share their experiences with young people.
Above all, the argument that the platform wants to combat human trafficking and promises women independence, pushes Knappik angry. “This is an absurd theater: suitors are fooled into believing that women are healthy, although official examinations can not guarantee that. The sex workers are promised independence, although they are the ones who have to do the work and share their profits with the operators. ”
For more than ten years, Knappik has left the street every night. The people of Sexworker.at look after an emergency telephone, advise, provide pastoral care, mediate apartments and support the exit wish. Knappik was previously a customer of the sex workers, today he is her lawyer. If politics wants to hear the opinion of the street, she asks Knappik. Tonight we are on his tour. He shows us the places that the city has assigned to the prostitutes in recent years. Dark, abandoned parking lots and street sections, far out on the outskirts. Far away from tourists and Haute Volée.
Here rape and violence also happened. The women in the street wave to him when he drives past with his rickety Citroën and looks after the right. The 120-kilo man with the Kubotan on his keyring knows many of the approximately 350 Laufhäuser, brothels and hidden massage studios in Vienna, and many of the owners by their first name. He knows the worries of the women and the unwritten laws.
One of the most important is: “No police”. Even after brutal abuse, the sex workers shy away from exchanges with the authorities. For illegal prostitutes from abroad working on the street or in dwellings, the double violation of the prostitution law often leads to deportation. Disarming has unpredictable consequences for women. The decision on a violation often depends on the arbitrariness of the officials. Waving to motorists who are too close to a residential area or inappropriate behavior in public will be enough for an ad.
Health checks bring no security
The “cover” distinguishes Julia significantly from illegal prostitutes. Every six weeks she goes to the office of a medical officer and is examined. Austria and Greece are the only two European countries where there are still compulsory investigations. In Germany, the “Bock” was abolished in 2001. Julia never learns the findings, nor begins a therapy after the examination. “There is a stamp or not. We do not even know what exactly we are going to investigate. HIV, AIDS and gonorrhea are being tested but we are not being tested for the much more common genital warts, HPV viral strains or hepatitis. ”
Accordingly, little sense would make a platform that wants to capture health data of prostitutes. Even if they exist, they would not be complete or outdated. A lot can happen in six weeks. And by no means everyone would just let themselves be tested like that. Illegal prostitutes would immediately notice the authorities by official investigations and risk an ad or deportation with the following stigmatization. Another mistake in the Hussy.io system. “The best protection for women and their customers is a condom,” says Julia.
“Guilty of pimping”
Only legal prostitutes have a health control card in Austria. They work under pseudonyms in bordels. Home visits are illegal in most states. “Who mediates the services of legal sex workers to customers, is guilty of pimping,” says Knappik. If a prostitute would arrange a home visit via Hussy.io, that would often be against the law. They are only allowed to work in licensed brothels and running houses; only in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, unlike in the other federal states, are there permission under certain conditions for home visits.
Stalker protection would be important
In addition to the authorities, the amorous suitors are the next group that regularly causes trouble. “We give comfort and closeness, listen to their worries and stroke their heads. Then they come again. And again. And at some point, the men want to have us all to themselves, “says Julia. Love turns into jealousy and sometimes hatred. They are spying, researching and suddenly standing in front of the apartment door. How Hussy.io wants to protect her when she pursues a stalker to the front door is not clear.
Initiation increasingly on the Internet
Human rights lawyer Tatiana Wittek from the Viennese law firm Lansky, Ganzger and Partner has looked more closely at the Hussy.io tweet, which actively promotes women to register for Hussy.io. “It’s a recruitment to prostitution. However, an ad is not enough to prove a criminal act. For this, the operators have to work intensively on the victim, “says Wittek. The lawyer sees in recent years that the recruitment of prostitutes through the Internet has changed. 12 percent of all sex workers in Europe are now recruited via dating or contact platforms.
Technology does not solve the problems
During the tour to the last permitted strokes in Vienna’s outskirts, we realize that the many problems can not be solved simply by technology. “Sex workers are second-class people and are abused by many groups,” says Knappik. In Laufhäusern the women between 80 and 160 euros per day rent for a room.
This creates daily sales pressure that drives many into burnout. Housing brokers in the red-light milieu demand a hefty subsidy to the actual rental price. Photographers usually estimate up to 500 Euros for photo series and then sell the pictures further. The pictures reappear on other contact pages. According to Knappik, tabloids are priced much higher for advertisements from the red light than from other industries.
“My biggest wish for our scene would be more money for specially trained police, more street workers and more publicity for the women,” says Knappik, as he steers his car along the belt of red-lighted shop windows over towards the center again. “Every law harms women more than it helps them. And the most important ones are covered anyway. Thou shalt not beat, not kill, not rape. “