On July 1st 2021, a new law came into effect which, among other things, makes the previously legal possession and sale of childlike sex dolls a punishable offense. According to the law, a childlike sex doll is a "physical replica of a child or a part of a child's body which, by its nature, is intended for the performance of sexual acts". The penalties are up to three years imprisonment for acquisition and possession, and up to five years for trading (§ 184l StGB).
Yet, this ban is constitutionally on extremely shaky ground. The motivation for the ban is an instinctive disgust and revulsion that many people feel on the subject. However, a constitutional state must protect concrete legal interests and not react with harsh criminal penalties on the basis of individual feelings of disgust. In addition to that, while the hypothesis that using childlike sex dolls lowers the inhibitions for real child sexual abuse is often cited as a reason for a ban, this is not supported by any scientific evidence.
The legislator states that the ban on childlike sex dolls is intended to "send a signal to society that children - even if they are only physically imitated - must not be made the object of sexual behavior". However, this also criminalizes behavior and acts in which no real children are involved, and therefore it is no longer about the protection of children, but about prosecuting thoughts and fantasies.
Last, but not least, it is not at all clear what the law bans exactly. There are no legal definitions of what the "physical replica of a child" is; nor is it clear when a doll is "intended for the performance of sexual acts". The ban thus introduces enormous legal uncertainty that could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of people in Germany.
The ban criminalises actions that harm no one. Using childlike sex dolls is one of the very few ways for people with pedophilia to safely and ethically satisfy their sexual needs. Prohibiting this with the threat of punishment is therefore a very strong intervention. The result is that people are criminalised and threatened with imprisonment who would never harm a child and actively seek for ways not to harm children. It is extremely important that there are alternatives for these people, allowing them to live offense-free lives.
We have therefore set up a work group to challenge the ban with a constitutional complaint. The only goal of the work group is to overturn the new ban, which we believe is ill-conceived and harmful.
The reason for the ban was that childlike sex dolls supposedly lower inhibitions towards real world abuse. However, there is not a single piece of scientific evidence supporting this notion, and everything we know thus far points into the opposite direction. To this day, the federal government shows no interest in researching this topic.
Laws on child protection also have to take the lifes of paedophile men and women into account who seek to deal with their sexuality without harming others. The doll ban outlaws one of the few remaining sexual substitutes for them without providing any kind of compensation.
Many have supported the ban because they find the idea of childlike sex dolls repulsive. However, restrictions of civil liberties and individual privacy have to be well-founded. The personal disgust of some people must not be a sufficient reason to interfere with the liberties of others.
The law represents a massive intrusion into the privacy of many people. What someone does in the privacy of their own home must be protected from state intervention as long as others are not harmed. And in the case of childlike sex dolls, no real person is harmed by their usage.
The ban of dolls makes paedophilic thoughts and fantasies acted out on inanimate objects a punishable offence. Punishable offenses are no determined by longer real damage, but the presumed thoughts of a person. This is a dangerous step in the direction of thought crimes and thus in its core unworthy of a democracy.
The German constitution requires that laws have to be clearly formulated: What is punishable and what is exempt from punishment must be clearly and unambiguously determined. However, the wording of the doll ban leaves several questions unanswered: at what point is a sex doll the replica of a child? Does it also include areas such as reborn dolls or medical training dolls, which can theoretically also be used for sexual purposes?
A ban must be justified, and this requires taking note of the realities of life of paedophiles or hebephiles who live in accordance with the law and strive to come to terms with their sexual inclination without abusing children. [...] It is appalling and inappropriate for a constitutional legal system that criminal punishment should be introduced on the basis of a few sentences with unresearched statements about human behaviour.
The explanatory memorandum to the law does not provide any evidence for this assertion. [...] Per se, such practices do not affect any protected legal position. Ultimately, only immoral behaviour is to be penalised here: Paedophilia is immoral, consequently the acting out of autoerotic paedophilic fantasies must be punished even if it harms no one. Notwithstanding this thin basis of legitimacy, the norm encounters considerable concerns with regard to Article 103 (2) of the Basic Law. For it is unclear how, in case of doubt, one should be able to recognise the childlike appearance of a doll or body part. In view of the variety of different sex toys, one can already be curious to see how the courts will determine their exact statutory size.
It is a misconception to believe that whoever has such a doll becomes a paedophile or commits child abuse. The question of whether someone becomes a perpetrator is decided by their personality, not their sexual preference or their chosen form of stimulation.
The merciless and at the same time unrealistic perspective is reflected for example in the new § 184l StGB. It makes it a punishable offence to distribute and possess sex dolls with a childlike appearance. The argument here is that perpetrators could practise abuse and that the inhibitions for real assaults will be lowered. From my experience as a specialist lawyer for criminal law in sexual offences, this paragraph seems absurd and completely exaggerated to me. It is just as conceivable that a sex doll could be an outlet and help to avoid assaults.
The possession of childlike sex dolls is criminalised without any apparent or imminent danger to children. In practice, it will become clear [...] which problems will certainly not be solved: Namely, the prevention of criminal offences and the better protection of children.
Even the mere possession of such a doll is to be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years. This is indeed a "signal". Namely for a certain loss of control among those responsible as far as the proportionality of threats of punishment is concerned.
Men who are attracted to children have no healthy outlet for their sex drives, and it will be that way for their entire lives. For someone who did not ask to be pedophilic and who cannot have romantic and sexual relationships like the rest of us, the only outlet they have is masturbation. For society to hamper even that, to me, is cruel when it is in the absence of a demonstrated societal benefit.