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State should provide sex workers for people with disabilities, says German MP

Elisabeth Scharfenberg says local authorities could provide grants to those who cannot satisfy themselves sexually

Adam Withnall
Tuesday 10 January 2017 16:16 GMT
A disability charity called sexuality a 'basic human need'
A disability charity called sexuality a 'basic human need' (Getty)

A German politician has sparked controversy by suggesting people with severe disabilities could receive “sexual assistance” paid for by the state.

The Green party’s spokeswoman for age and care policy, Elisabeth Scharfenberg, said the government could “provide grants” for sexual services to disabled people who cannot achieve satisfaction by any other means.

Such a system is currently operating in Denmark and the Netherlands, where certified “sexual assistants” with special training conduct visits to disabled people who cannot afford to pay themselves.

"Funding for sexual assistance is conceivable for me," Ms Scharfenberg told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to a translation by the German edition of The Local.

"The local authorities could advise on the available options and provide grants."

The use of sexual assistants is controversial even among experts in the field, however.

The charity MyHandicap International, founded in Germany, says such services should not be described as prostitution, and refers to sexuality as a “basic human need”.

Matthias Vernaldi, an activist for people with disabilities who is himself severely disabled, has previously championed the right to use sex workers when it is the only way to experience sexuality.

But he says providing state aid to this end would be a mistake. “Sex from social welfare would strengthen the public perception of disabled people being some type of imperfect creatures and just expand again the once believed, conquered therapisation of the intimate spheres of disabled people,” he said.

Reacting to the Greens’ suggestion the policy be looked at in Germany, Social Democrat Karl Lauterbach told a number of news outlets that the idea was “outlandish”, and warned against “commercialisation of this area”. A professor of health economics, he said there was no medical necessity for sexual assistance.

And Ms Scharfenberg’s own colleague in the Green party, Tübingen mayor Boris Palmer, said her comments had made the party look like “crackpots”.

“Why do such adventures always come up in election years?" he said.

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