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Beginning in the 19th century, sex workers in many regions had to register with police or local health authorities and submit to regular health checks to curb venereal diseases.
The so-called Bremer Regulations of 1852 stated that prostitution was "not a trade in the true sense".
By this distinction between prostitution and other trades, immorality of prostitution was defined in law.
In Imperial Germany (1871–1918) attitudes to sex work was ambivalent.
However, the social stigmatization of sex work persists and many workers continue to lead a double life.
Sex work in historically German lands has never been outlawed and has been described since the middle ages.
Some municipalities actively encouraged it and far from existing on the margins, sex workers were often honoured guests, who maintained domestic order as an outlet and lesser evil to such things as adultery and rape.
While sex work was tolerated as a necessary function to provide for male sexuality outside of marriage, it was frowned on as a threat to contemporary moral images of women's sexuality.
Therefore, state policy concentrated on regulation rather than abolition. The Criminal Code of 1871 prohibited brothels and "commercial fornication".
Thus their occupation defined their lives as a separate class of women, on the margins of society.
At the beginning of the 20th century, prostitution was considered "harmful to communities".