Germany backs bigger brothels to fight World Cup sex explosion

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It is only a short bus ride from Germany's main World Cup stadium and it boasts a Turkish bath, two saunas, two cinemas and up to 100 prostitutes offering round-the-clock sex.

Europe's biggest brothel, which opened in Berlin only two months ago, is Germany's latest answer to the invasion of "sex-workers", who are expected to flood the country next year to cater for male soccer fans.

Predictions suggest that up to three million fans will visit a prostitute at least once during the World Cup. The event's organisers are expecting at least 40,000 prostitutes to descend on Germany from throughout Europe to meet demand.

Artemis, the four-storey brothel located a mile and a half from Berlin's Olympic stadium, is an attempt bring the sex trade explosion under control in a country where prostitution is both legal and widespread.

From the outside, the €5m (£3.4m) "etablissement" resembles a luxury hotel tucked away on an industrial estate. Yet close up, the decorative balloon flying from the roof turns out to be a giant phallus. Inside, a handful of middle-aged punters were last week paying €40 each for a locker, bathrobe and access to the brothel's bars, whirlpools, massage parlours, cinemas and 46 suites decked out with mock zebra-skin bed covers, mirrors and bacchanalian pictures. Yet the sex itself costs extra.

Norman Jacob, a lawyer and spokesman for Artemis, says the brothel cuts out prostitutes' traditional reliance on pimps and virtually eliminates the chances of illegal eastern European "sex slaves" being employed on the premises. "All the girls here have to provide a tax number and proof of permission to work in the EU," he said. "They pay a €70 entrance fee, but they are free to negotiate the cost of their services with each client, whichallows them to keep all the profits."

Xenia, one of the prostitutes,said the system worked in her favour. "I used to pay between 20 and 50 per cent of my takings to my organiser. Here I can keep the lot," she said.

Mega-brothels such as Artemis are being encouraged by the authorities as a means of combating illegal prostitutionduring the World Cup. Renate Schmidt, the outgoing family affairs minister, recently wrote to the German Football Association demanding it "rally behind police and the authorities to combat forced prostitution and people-trafficking".

Cologne, one of 11 other Germancities hosting World Cup games, has followed Berlin and erected policed "sex garages" on the city's fringes. Each offers rudimentary facilities for prostitutes and their clients such as condom and snack vending machines . Similar plans are underway in Munich, where police predict the number of prostitutes is likely to rise 30 per cent.

"We don't want to destroy legitimate businesses, but we aim to root out the sex slaves who are being brought here," said Gottfried Schlicht, a Munich police spokesman.

But women's groups, church leaders and trade unionists remain concerned about an influx of sex slaves. The Women's Council is planning to protest outside soccer stadiums to warn fans. "We want to alert men to this problem," said a spokeswoman. "During the World Cup all forms of sexual exploitation must be shown the red card."