Amsterdam authorities say they are to halve the number of brothels and marijuana shops in the city's red light district and surrounding area.
The city announced plans to clean up the area a year ago and since then 109 sex windows , from which prostitutes attract customers, have been closed. The new measures aim to reduce the number of windows to 243 from 482 last year, a city
Amsterdam also wants to close half of the 76 cannabis shops in the city centre.
The deputy mayor of Amsterdam Lodewijk Asscher told Reuters: We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control.
The 800-year-old red light district needs to diversify and showcase the city's history, Asscher said: This is a nice, old part of town. We can attract different groups of tourists. You should be able to have a beer at the old church
square, watch fashion, and visit Chinatown .
Visiting illegal prostitutes will be punishable by up to six months in jail if cabinet plans to reform the law on prostitution go through.
In addition, all companies involved in the sex industry – from escort bureaus and sex theatres to massage salons – will have to get an official licence to operate. At the moment only brothels require licences.
Local councils will also be able to say where and if sex companies can be situated.
The proposals, drawn up by home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst and injustice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, have been circulated to police, justice ministry officials, the tax office and other interested parties for their comments.
The proposal does not include a rise in the minimum age for prostitutes from 18 to 21, but this still may be an option, the ministers said.
Many prostitutes are seeing red over the planned closure of many of the brothels.
Many of the girls are from Eastern Europe while others are native Dutch.
We will fight this attack on our livelihood, we will use legal means, we have a right to make a living and we don't want to be crowded into a reduced number of brothels or forced out remarked one working girl in the area that identified
herself as Annia.
Already a number of civil rights and liberal groups are planning to support the working girls in their fight to oppose the closures. This has to do with Bible-bashers in government a reference to the Christian Democrat party that are part
of Holland's ruling coalition. This is an assault on modern values and has nothing to do with cleaning up the city one activist commented.
We will oppose this and offer all assistance to the women affected by this regressive plan. We know the girls of De Wallen and we are aware of their inner strength. Many people oppose this, some are also worried about Amsterdam's tourist
industry going up in smoke.
Some tourists are concerned as well I've been coming here for years and if this place get's closed down it will be a pity, look at drab, boring Britain: do you want to become like that? asks Ian, a tourist from Leeds in the UK.
A 'offee drinker with the glazed eyes said: This is an attack on the very essence of Amsterdam, and the essence of being Dutch.
Half of Amsterdam's prostitute windows must be closed, the mayor has told The Times.
The Continent's most open red-light district, which sprawls over Amsterdam's historic canal district, will be reduced to two main streets under a dramatic downsizing plan drawn up by Job Cohen, the city's mayor.
Cohen, who is also closing a fifth of the city's cannabis cafés and a number of sex clubs. He claims that he wants Amsterdam to become better known for its art, chamber music and museums rather than as a hotspot for sex and drugs.
There are currently more than 400 of the distinctive neon-lit prostitute windows from where scantily clad women beckon passers-by and about 70 coffee shops selling ready-rolled cannabis joints.
The tolerance, which we in Amsterdam are proud of, is not the same as indifference, said Cohen, the former Rector of Maastricht University, who resigned as the Deputy Justice Minister in Wim Kok's Labour Government to become mayor of the
city in 2001.
The prostitutes' union, the Red Thread, has accused Cohen of using a crackdown on criminal activity as an excuse to close the windows and reverse years of tolerance. It has been drawn up at the same time as the Government is taking a tougher line
on soft drugs, banning the sale of magic mushrooms and forcing the closure of all coffee shops near schools, as the Netherlands rethinks its anything-goes attitudes.
The union argues that the prostitute windows are much safer because women can deal with clients directly without having to rely on pimps.
The decision to shut down the designated street prostitution zone in Eindhoven in 2011 is coming up against criticism and incomprehension among prostitutes. These ladies must be helped out of their dead-end situation, says the alderman.
Then I'll go back to illegal soliciting, says one prostitute.
By Esther Wittenberg
Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000 and six years ago Eindhoven opened a designated street prostitution area. The aim was to put an end to the nuisance caused by street prostitution in the working class area of Woensel West.
Used condoms were being thrown into front gardens, cars were cruising around the area at night, and neighbourhood girls were being asked how much they charged. Thirty prostitutes with addiction problems were given a pass that allowed them to work
in the special designated zone. The aim was also to provide addicted street prostitutes with better healthcare.
A sitting room facility was provided were prostitutes could shower, wash their clothes and get ready for work. Condoms, clean needles and coffee were provided. People from the Salvation Army spoke with the women, a doctor examined the women, and
police kept an eye on the situation. The nuisance was reduced and the women's health improved
Although the street prostitution zone has succeeded at virtually all its aims, according to an evaluation, the municipality wants to shut it down in 2011. In the next three years, aided by assistance workers, all the addicted prostitutes must
become independent of the drug dealers and pimps. Alderman Mariët Mittendorff: We do not want to facilitate these women in remaining in their dead-end situation. We would rather offer them a dignified existence.
Opinions on street prostitution zones vary throughout the country. Amsterdam shut its zone down in 2003. Rotterdam and The Hague followed suit in 2006. The argument for closing the zones was that they attracted drug dealers and human trafficking.
The street prostitution zones are still open in Utrecht, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Heerlen and Groningen.
The Dutch government does not plan to raise the minimum prostitution age from 18 to 21, the Telegraaf has reported.
Reliable sources have told the paper that justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has decided that there would be too much opposition to an increase and it would drive younger prostitutes into the illegal circuit.
Meanwhile, the AD reports that the recession is beginning to have an affect on Amsterdam's red light district, with prostitutes reporting a sharp fall in clients and demands for cheaper prices.
Beate Uhse, the German sex empire that is now largely in Dutch hands, says a publicity campaign is needed to attract more foreign tourists to Amsterdam's Red Light District'.
The company, that sells sex toys, lingerie, clothing and pornography, claims Project 1012 has severely damaged its business. Project 1012, named after the postal code of the Red Light District, is an attempt by the Amsterdam authorities to curb
prostitution in the area. It involves the closing of dozens of window brothels.
Beate Uhse owns ten shops in Amsterdam, most of which are located in the sex district. CEO Serge van der Hooft said that the area has been a major tourist attraction: But these days many foreign tourists seem to think that the Red Light
District is no more.
The Amsterdam city authorities were on the verge of shutting down landmark erotic theatre Casa Rosso in the red light district. Owner Jan Otten resisted - and won.
Jan Otten is the face of the Amsterdam red light district. His erotic theatre Casa Rosso is the most prominent landmark in the historic area of window prostitutes, sex shops and cannabis selling coffee shops. Its illuminated facade has
appeared on TV shows across the world and Otten has contracts with 180 travel organisations.
Otten prefers to sit behind the till himself, welcoming guests to the shows, which feature intercourse on the stage.
It was world news therefore when it was announced three years ago that Otten's businesses were being shut down by the municipality. In addition to Casa Rosso, Otten owns the Banana bar and a number of peep shows and sex shops in Amsterdam's red
light district. On Tuesday it was disclosed that Otten will after all be granted his entertainment and operating licences from the municipality of Amsterdam, after a long legal battle.
The national Bibob agency, which supervises the integrity of licensees, had advised against Otten's retaining his licences. It alleged Otten had connections with criminal circles and that criminal money may have been laundered via Casa Rosso.
At first I thought it was a comedy, Otten said. I said: go ahead and look into it, none of those stories about criminal money are true. I've done nothing wrong. But when the licences were not forthcoming, it turned into a very
bad movie. Once, when he got into an argument with one of his employees, he thought about selling the whole damn business .
Shutting down his windows became part of the city's plans to close brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes to drive organised crime out of the tourist haven. The Bibob agency connected Otten with laundering ransom money that had been paid in the
1983 for kidnapped beer magnate Freddy Heineken. Those stories were quickly refuted, Otten said. Nonetheless the investigation took a very long time because not all of his investments were transparent.
In the meantime Casa Rosso suffered under the threat of closure. I have had a great deal of trouble from all the stories that have come out since 2007. Whether involving human trafficking or forced prostitution, Casa Rosso is brought into the
picture in all the stories about abuses in the red light district. And I have nothing to do with that, Otten said.
And then there are the costs he has had to incur to secure his licence. All those lawyers and advisers. It certainly cost a million euros. For a licence. That ruins a business owner, Otten said. In retrospect I do have the feeling that
they wanted to ruin me.
Clients of unlicensed prostitutes in the Netherlands may in future risk prosecution under a proposed new law, the cabinet said.
The draft law, yet to be approved by parliament, will make it compulsory for prostitutes to go through a registration process.
Municipalities will decide how many brothels to allow in their borders, and where.
Prostitutes will become liable for prosecution if they work without the required registration, or in a business with no permit, said the statement.
Clients who make use of the services of illegal prostitutes can be prosecuted, because by doing so they help sustain a form of prostitution in which abuses and exploitation are more difficult to prevent.
Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000, but only brothels and businesses letting out streetside windows to prostitutes have hitherto required municipal authorisation.
Amsterdam and prostitution have for a long time been bedfellows and the city's red light district attracts thousands of tourists who come to take advantages of the liberal laws. But these thrill seekers may soon have to get their kicks elsewhere,
because the Dutch government wants to criminalise sex tourism.
The Netherlands has proposed a Prostitution Regulation Law targeting both those who buy sex as well as those who sell it. Lawmakers say it will identify women who are forced into the industry against their will.
At the moment only prostitutes who work in brothels require a license – many choose to work as escorts or provide services from their homes instead. Under the new law, all women working in the industry would be forced to register, and their
details will be available to the police and justice department.
The idea has caused concern in a number of organisations, including the Red Thread, which represents sex workers. Jan Fisher is its chairman: It will be the reverse. The ones who want to work know how devastating the stigma could be, and will
be. They will try to work outside this system and they'll be vulnerable when they're detected by the police and tax office, and the ones who are trafficked may be forced by their pimps to register so they have a kind of legal status.
Another major fear is that the Netherlands will move towards a Swedish model, where it is a crime for men to visit prostitutes. Pye Jakobsson, who has worked in the Swedish sex industry for several years, says the Dutch plan is even more
stupid than the restrictive regime she works under: The Swedish experience tells us that if you're vulnerable or under the radar – as you will be if you're unregistered – you're more prone to meet dangerous clients as the good ones, the
decent ones, who will want to buy sex from registered workers. And there will be women, for one reason or another, who don't want to register and they won't have the choice to say 'no' to bad clients.
Increase in violence Pye believes there will be an increase in violence against sex workers if the law is introduced in the Netherlands and is urging lawmakers to rethink the plans. If the idea is to combat people trafficking, she says, the
government should use existing labour laws. Pye argues most women in the trade do the job through choice.
Amsterdam Councillor Lodewijk Asscher has launched a plan to raise the minimum age of prostitutes from 18 to 23. Asscher wants to 'clean up' Amsterdam's Red Light district and is proposing a whole raft of measures. In addition to raising the
minimum age, he also wants the red light district in the Wallen area to close down between 04:00 and 08:00 in the morning.
Speaking to Dutch daily De Telegraaf, the councillor denied that he wants to turn Amsterdam into a prudish bourgeois paradise. Look, Amsterdam is a metropolis and prostitution is part of that. There is nothing against prostitution if the women
are doing it of their own free will ...BUT... there are many of examples where that is not the case. Imagine it's your mother or your sister working as a prostitute.
Asscher's proposal will probably be presented to the city council after the 3 March municipal elections, so the plan is in the hands of the voters.
Sex workers in the Netherlands must be at least 21 years old and carry a pass with their photo and a special registration number, says a law amendment just filed in parliament.
People of 21 are better able than people of 18 to make a well-considered decision about whether or not to work as a prostitute, caretaker injustice minister Hirsch Ballin, who submitted the amendment, said in a statement: They are
better able to deal and negotiate with clients. They are more likely to have some further education and thus be less economically dependent on prostitution work.
The amendment, yet to be adopted by parliament, will compel prostitutes to enrol on a national register and to have an entry interview on the risks of the job and alternatives, said the statement.
Registered prostitutes will receive a pass with a profile photograph and registration number, which will enable clients to control that they are using the services of a legal practitioner. Under the current law, only brothel owners and other
prostitute handlers require authorisation
Update: Further Details of the registration scheme
Prostitutes have to be at least 21 years of age. This is Minister Hirsch Ballin's (the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Justice) proposal to the Lower House in an amendment to the legislative proposal already before the Lower
House concerning the regulation of prostitution and sex businesses. Persons aged 21 are better able to make a well-considered decision about working as a prostitute than people aged 18; they are also more resilient as regards handling and
negotiating with clients. Moreover, they will more often have finished an education and therefore economically less dependent on work in prostitution. Municipalities will have to conduct a substantive interview with each prostitute at the time of
their registration or extension thereof.
Initially, the Dutch government chose an age limit of 18, in view of the risk that prostitutes aged between 18 and 21 would disappear into illegality. Minister Hirsch Ballin wants to combat this with strict checks and making
illegal prostitutes, operators and their clients punishable.
Prostitutes will have to register in a national register. Upon registration, an interview has to be conducted with each prostitute concerning the risks of the business, health care and assistance, social security, insurance
and possibilities to leave the world of prostitution. During such an interview, any abuses can be discussed and forwarded to the police and welfare services. Registration will only be possible in 25 to 35 larger communities throughout the
Netherlands in view of the fact that conducting this type of interview requires the necessary expertise on the part of the civil servants. Registered prostitutes will receive a pass with their picture and registration number (but without their
name). Clients have to check whether they are dealing with a legal prostitute by means of the pass. It is the intention that clients can establish via the Internet whether the registration number advertised by the prostitute actually exists.
There is a taboo on prostitution although it is legal in the Netherlands. Anonymity and privacy are therefore very important for prostitutes. Only a small number of supervision officials and the police will have access to
the national register of prostitutes. The register will also not be linked to other IT systems (such as the Tax and Customs Administration). The details of prostitutes who retire are immediately removed from the register.
Brothels and other sex businesses (clubs, escort services, sex cinemas, massage parlours) are required to have a licence. Municipalities determine via licences where and how many brothels or other sex businesses there will
be. As regards brothels and escort companies, a municipality can elect not to allow any company, the so-called zero option. The municipality does need to have supportive arguments for choosing this option that are related to public order, safety
or public health. Moral arguments should not play a role.
The licences for prostitution companies will include conditions on health, safety and the right to self-determination of prostitutes. This will strengthen their position. Prostitution companies will require a permanent
address with a fixed telephone line for a licence. The licences of escort services will be entered in a national registers which will create supervision of this part of the industry.
Clients who make use of illegal prostitution will become punishable because they maintain a type of prostitution where forms of abuse and exploitation can easily occur. The prohibition on the operation of a prostitution
company without a licence and registration duty for prostitution creates a clear division between legal and illegal prostitution. That division is also recognisable for clients.
The act is intended to regulate the prostitution industry, not to obstruct the legal part of the industry. The new act is also intended to make a contribution to combating abuses such as coercion, abuse and human
Punishment of violations
Prostitute without registration or working in a brothel without a licence: A fine of at most 380 euros *
Clients who visit unregistered prostitutes or unlicensed brothels: A fine of at most 7,600 euros or a term of imprisonment of at most 6 months *
Sex business without a licence or violation of the statutory rules: A fine of at most 18,500 euros or a term of imprisonment of at most two years
Government plans to introduce a special register of prostitutes are running into trouble in parliament, with MPs from the ruling right-wing VVD also having doubts, news agency ANP reports.
In particular, MPs say there are legal questions over the privacy of prostitutes and fears that it will drive them into the illegal sector. VVD MPs are also concerned about the cost of the registration system and regulation, ANP said.
The Dutch government is looking at new ways to cut the country's budget deficit. It's hoping to tap in to an industry that generates billions of euros a year by bringing in a new plan to make prostitutes pay taxes like everyone else.
Officials have traditionally treated prostitutes with a little more leniency on taxation than other workers. But the industry generates about 625m euros per year. And with thousands of potential added taxpayers, the authorities are now planning
to pursue them for the average 33% tax that until now many have managed to avoid.
Prostitution was legalised in Amsterdam in 2000 and sex workers are now classed as self-employed businesswomen.
Nowadays, around three-quarters of the women who work in Amsterdam's sex industry are from Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia. Many of them fly in for a couple of months and fly out again, without anyone - other than their clients - ever knowing they
As part of the tax service's new tactics, officials are touring the red-light district, checking that the girls know that they are meant to be paying tax and making sure they've filled in all the proper forms.
Sex businesses in the famous Amsterdam Red Light district De Wallen must in future be closed after 10.00 p.m. The sex business owners have lost their appeal against the decision of the city council to introduce the closing times.
For 40 years, it was tolerated that brothels, peep shows and sex shops in the Red Light district could stay open until 2.00 a.m. At the beginning of the current year, however, the city council decided that the Shop Opening Times Act had to be
enforced ant all sex shops had to close at 10.00pm.
Fourteen owners of 23 sex shops brought a case against the city council, but saw their argument rejected. With the appeal court ruling the collective route is now closed. Individually, a business can however still look and see if it is
possible to remain open for longer, said lawyer Rob IJsendijk.
Pope Benedict praised the Dutch government for tackling drug abuse and prostitution while warning against too liberal an approach which could see individuals harm society.
He somehow omitted to mention the enormous amount of harm caused by his own 'no sex' approach, both to his own priests, and to the young victims abused by the priests who get screwed up the 'no sex' approach.
Addressing the new Netherlands ambassador to the Vatican, Benedict said he was
encouraged by the steps that the Dutch government has taken to discourage drug abuse and prostitution. While your nation has long championed the freedom of individuals to make their own choices, those choices by which people inflict harm on
themselves or others must be discouraged, for the good of individuals or society as a whole.
However he did admit to there being a problem with the priesthood but somehow sees the problems as priests not being able to live up to the rules, rather than the rules themselves being the problem.
The pope said the Roman Catholic Church recognises with humility that her own members do not always live up to the high moral standards that she proposes but urged all people to act in accordance with justice and right reason .
The pope then warned that religious freedom is threatened not only by legal constraints in some parts of the world, but by an anti-religious mentality within many societies , and called on the government to be vigilant .
Well if he is going to praise those who remove people's freedom and enjoyment of life, then he should expect the deserved 'anti-religious mentality' to continue unabated.
For several years now, the young (37) Amsterdam alderman Lodewijk Asscher has been waging his own crusade against sex workers in Amsterdam. He claims: We have to abandon our romantic view of the red light district.
For many tourists the red light district is a normal stop on their visit to Amsterdam, taking a look at the prostitutes posing in the windows to attract clients. For many visitors the red lights are a symbol of what is possible in the
Netherlands, with its tolerant attitude to sex and drugs.
The Dutch government decided to lift the ban on prostitution in 2000. The introduction of licencing was intended to improve the position of prostitutes.
Hard line Alderman Asscher is politically responsible for the red light district. He regularly makes comments regarded as un-Dutch . He believes it is a national misconception that prostitution belongs in the compass of freedom and
tolerance. The problems, he claims, are grossly underestimated:
Hard-line criminal behaviour is what is happening behind those windows. Women subjected to extremes of exploitation. They have a non-existent debt they have to pay to a pimp by prostituting themselves. They are physically abused if they don't
work hard enough.
It's very difficult to tackle effectively. Very frustrating for the police and the courts. The penalties are often minor. There is also an absence of public indignation. Recently we were dealing with a pimp who had used violent methods to force
110 women into work. The only sign of public anger was when the man escaped.
In his capacity as alderman, he has introduced a number of measures aimed at reducing window prostitution. Amsterdam has been buying up properties previously owned by the sex industry. In February this year more than 60 addresses lost their
prostitution designations. The council is rezoning the whole area. In the future, brothels and coffeeshops will make way for cafes, restaurants and ordinary shops.
Over the next few weeks the Senate will be debating a new prostitution bill. Proposals include discriminating against youg adults by making the minimum age for registered prostitutes 21 instead of 18.
Having sex with a prostitute living in the Netherlands illegally would become a criminal offence.
It's now or never, threatens Lodewijk Asscher. If it can't be regulated, prostitution will have to be made illegal again.
Amsterdam city council's marketing department should stop promoting the red light district as an exciting tourist attraction, a Christian Democratic councillor has said.
Encouraging tourists to visit the area ignores the problems associated with prostitution and tourists should be told the truth about the position of sex workers , CDA councillor Marijke Shahasavari is quoted as saying.
Amsterdam's promotional website Iamsterdam recommends the evening as the best time to visit this famous part of Amsterdam. The website states:
Prostitution has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance in Amsterdam and, as with soft drugs, the Netherlands approach is to legalise the trade and impose regulations.' In addition to preventing forced prostitution, this open and honest approach
means sex-workers here have their own union, plenty of police protection, an information centre (for visitors as well), frequent monitoring and testing and professional standards.
Amsterdam City Council has decided to rezone large sections of De Wallen, as it is known in Dutch, and shut down and evict brothels and other sex businesses which fail to co-operate.
The get-tough policy will come into effect in parallel with a new law banning tourists from the city's coffee shops , where cannabis and other drugs can be bought and consumed legally. The law is in force in Maastricht, and will apply
nationwide from January 1st next.
The miserable deputy mayor, Lodewijk Asscher, who is overseeing the anti-sex work campaign, said the red light area's enormous value made a legal challenge inevitable. He said:
De Wallen is big business, and sex industry bosses are always ready for a fight. Even before the outline zoning proposals were completed, we were aware that lawyers had been briefed and were preparing to pick holes in them wherever possible.
The district currently has 400 red-light windows, and Asscher said that should be reduced by 100 by 2017.
Netherland's 'Justice' minister Ivo Opstelten is to revise some aspects of new restrictions on prostitution following concerns from the upper house of parliament.
Senators are concerned about how effective the law will be in practice, Nos television says.
The aim of the legislation is to repress prostitution by imposing a licencing system and setting up an official register of prostitutes.
The legislation will also ludicrously require customers to make sure they are visiting a legal prostitute. If the customer fails to check and the prostitute is unregistered he will have committed a criminal offence and could be fined.
This is the second time the senate has delayed the legislation, Nos says. Earlier senators wanted more information about the data protection aspects of the new law and the implications of human rights legislation.
Amsterdam moralists of the local council are considering going it alone with repressive attacks on the sex industry after efforts to get their way at that national level appear to have failed.
In particular, the council is considering raising the legal age to become a prostitute from 18 to 21 and introducing a language test. A council spokesman claimed:
A language test is important because it will not only enable the prostitute to speak to police and social workers but take care of herself in an emergency situation.
The proposals will be discussed by the city council executive next week.
The upper house of parliament is currently considering legislation which would require all prostitutes to register as sex workers. It would force clients to check whether the prostitute is registered or not. Both these requirements have come in
for heavy criticism.
PC extremists on Amsterdam Council have voted to increase the legal age for prostitution from 18 to 21 as part of a series of new regulations aimed at repressing the sex industr.
The city council decision will be now be written into local bylaws, along with closing hours for brothels and red-light windows between 4am and 9am. Dutch language tests will also be introduced for the same reason. A council
Younger women tend to be more vulnerable. This is part of a set of measures designed to tackle abuse in the sex industry, and strengthen the independence of prostitutes. The logic of the language tests is the same: if women get into trouble,
they need to be able to communicate.
In addition brothel managers will have to produce business plans which show how health and safety regulations, particularly in relation to working hours, are being applied to their employees. If they are renting windows to individual
prostitutes, the businesses will have to produce contracts showing the price being paid and any other conditions.
Sex workers in Utrecht have made a last ditch appeal to the city council ahead of plans to close the last of the city's licenced brothels - most of which operate on boats.
The rental contract for the only remaining brothel owner in the city expires next week and is not being renewed because the mayor has concerns about a supposed link with human trafficking.
That means some 300 sex workers will be without a place to work from July 25.
According to news agency ANP, a spokeswoman for the prostitutes says that many of them will now disappear into the illegal sector. Instead, they suggest forming a collective which will rent the boats directly from the council. However, Wolfson
has halready told RTV Utrecht that there is no question of the council running prostitution boats .
If no solution is found by Friday, the women are threatening to put up a tent in front of the town hall. They may also take some form of legal action, RTV Utrecht said.
Amsterdam is set to move ahead with plans to close 40% of the prostitution windows in its famous De Wallen red-light district.
26 owners of a total of 100 window brothels, in which sex workers can be seen by prospective clients from the street, had appeared before the Dutch Council of State, the highest administrative body in the Netherlands, to argue against the
But the body said that a reduction in these sex establishments and their concentration in a smaller area would allow better control and monitoring of window prostitution.
The ruling means Amsterdam can now fully implement its gentrification Project 1012 initiated by then-mayor Job Cohen in 2008. The city hopes to replace the windows with more boutiques and art galleries in the picturesque old canal houses.
Amsterdam's famous red-light district is under threat, from the economic crisis on one hand and on the other lawmakers are proposing restrictive changes to the sex-for-hire industry.
The economic crisis is forcing prostitutes to lower their prices and to accept dubious sexual practices, according to the sex work advocacy group Geisha.
The trend is apparent in the main cities, with some prostitutes unable to pay the rent on their rooms , Ilonka Stakelborough from Geisha told Algemeen Dagblad. Until recently, the minimum price was EUR50, but this has now dropped as low as
EUR20 in cities such as Amsterdam and The Hague.
Geisha is to set up a project for sex workers so they can form a co-operative. Geisha will rent a room which prostitutes only pay rent for when they are actually working.
Gender extremism has been taking hold in the Netherlands for some time . For example. Myrthe Hilkens, a Labor Party legislator who supports a series of moves to tighten the rules on prostitution said:
For something as simple as the lust for sex, we are tolerating modern-day slavery. I think that cannot be.
Anti sex work proposals are far-reaching. Most contested is a bill to require all prostitutes be registered with the government---a measure that has already been approved by the lower house but is struggling in the Senate. Also in the works:
raising the minimum age to 21 from 18, and a requirement that escort services be licensed, just as brothels currently are. A vote is expected before the summer recess on July 9.
Under the proposed registry, Holland's roughly 20,000 prostitutes would have to meet with government officials and show they are not being coerced in order to get a registration card.
Meanwhile, the city government in Amsterdam on Wednesday is expected to approve tougher rules, including ordering brothels to close in the early-morning hours and requiring that prostitutes speak Dutch, English, German or Spanish.
City officials say they have managed to cut the number of prostitutes' windows in the red-light district from 500 to 409 in about five years, and want to ultimately bring it down to 300.
Utrecht city council has agreed a new location for the city's sex workers, five months after the licences for most of the city's floating brothels were withdrawn.
Mayor Aleid Wolfsen cancelled the permits in July because of supposed concerns the boat owners were involved in human trafficking. The boats on the Zandpad must now be removed by March.
The sex workers, some of whom had attempted to take over the boats themselves, will be relocated to a new location with 162 workspaces, local broadcaster RTV Utrecht said.
The city is also introducing a minimum age of 21 for prostitutes and says the windows must have reasonable rents. Would-be brothel owners will only be given three-year licences for no more than 20% of the windows.
Each evening thousands of tourists stroll down the narrow canal-side streets of Amsterdam's famed Red Light District, gawking at ladies in lingerie who work behind windows. Now a small new educational museum in the heart of the district shows the
reality from the other side of the glass.
Organizer Melcher de Wind says the Red Light Secrets museum is for those who want to learn more about how the area works. I
The museum focuses on the era since 2000, when prostitution became legal in the Netherlands. Yolanda van Doeveren, who manages the city's prostitution social programs, says the district is regulated by police officers, social workers, health
workers, tax authorities and civil rights groups. A new girl who appears in a window will be noticed in a matter of hours and must be able to show that she's old enough and has approval to work. The legal age to work as a prostitute in Amsterdam
has recently been raised from 18 to 21.
Very few women who work as prostitutes ever earn more than a middle class income at best. Ilonka Stakelborough, an escort who heads a sex-workers union called the Geisha Institute, says it's not the prettiest or youngest girls who get the
most customers or earn the most. And escorts and high-end brothel prostitutes don't necessarily do better, they have fewer customers, longer sessions and lots of costs, for taxis or splitting profits with brothel owners. A window typically rents
for 150 euros ($202) for a half-day. Given the standard cost of about 50 euros ($70) for a 15-minute session, their take-home pay before taxes is only 150 euros after seeing six clients, or 250 euros ($338) after eight.
The Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution is located on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60-62 in Amsterdam. The museum is open daily from noon to midnight. Admission cost: 7.50 euros.
New regulations supposedly aimed at the hygiene of sex toys have irked Red Light District window operators, who are now appealing the rules change by Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan.
As part of the new licensing conditions, window landlords are responsible for ensuring that sex toys maintain proper hygiene standards rather than the sex workers who use them.
Under the united front Wallen Ondernemers Prostitutie (WOP) window operators say the responsibility for the cleanliness of sex toys should rest with the people who rent the windows, and they have filed an official complaint with the city over the
change, according to the Telegraaf.
In July 2013, new regulations imposed much stricter rules on window operators across the Red Light District. To receive a license, operators must ensure that each window is adequately supplied with clean towels, condoms and disinfectant soap,
with checks carried out eight times annually. The addition of sex toy hygiene proved to be too much for operators, they said.
PROUD, a sex workers association is organising a large demonstration of sex workers to protest against the continuing closure of window brothels in Amsterdam on Thursday April 9th.
Amsterdam city council will be debating the controversial project 1012 that evening. PROUD, who represents sex workers in the Netherlands, will deliver a list of grievances and demands to the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan.
PROUD spokesman Lyle Muns said:
Project 1012 is an urban regeneration project that wholly ignores the presence of sex workers in the city center. Instead of 'saving' sex workers, it is necessary to listen to them. And what they unanimously say is: Hands off our work spaces!
Project 1012 claims to fight abuses in the sex industry by closing windows. But displaced sex workers do not stop working. It was naive of the responsible Social Democratic party in the city council to think that this would ever work. Sex
workers didn't stay home but moved to other cities or work from the Internet. PROUD explains how closing windows leads to a worsening of the work conditions of sex workers. Window brothels are one of the safest work places in prostitution. Each
window has an alarm in case of danger. The police are always nearby. Health and service organisations frequently monitor the windows. These back up services are simply not available at other sites. By closing windows sex workers are forced to
work in more dangerous environments
PROUD demands the immediate termination of Project 1012. It also demands the reversal of the window closures. For its primary target group Project 1012 has been an utter failure. Sex workers are victims of a costly, misconceived project that is
ruining Amsterdam's unique historical center. It is high time that stubborn officials begin to respect the rights of sex workers.
The demonstration will leave Thursday April 9 at 18.00 hours from the Oudekerksplein. Sex workers and everyone who supports them are all welcome! At 19.00 hours a statement will be submitted to the mayor at the Stopera. To respect their anonymity
some sex workers will wear masks. The media are invited to interview sex workers anonymously.
With hundreds of sex workers marching through the streets of Amsterdam today, the sex workers made a clear statement: Stop the closure of prostitution windows!
Since 2008 the city has closed down 117 prostitution windows, and they have another 94 windows scheduled for closure. But in recent years criticism has been rising regarding the project, because the project was being sold as a project to fight
forced prostitution , claiming they would reduce human trafficking by closing down windows. In reality however about 300 sex workers have already lost their workplace, and another 250 girls are going to loose their workplace, and nobody knows
where those girls end up. I'm sure that helps possible victims a lot!
With a bigger turn up than expected, the 200 masks we provided for the girls for the demonstration weren't enough for all the sex workers that showed up. An estimated 230 sex workers turned up for the demonstration, and another large group of
supporters joined us in our march to city hall, to hand over the petition signed by sex workers and supporters to the mayor to stop closing down prostitution windows in Amsterdam.
In total 414 sex workers from the Red Light District and some sex workers from the Singel area in Amsterdam signed the petition. So if ever anyone still claims that I would be just one woman , here's the proof of all the women I represent.
A little bit more than the 40 girls from Jojanneke I'd say. And with only 354 windows in those two areas together, the signatures of 414 sex workers prove that a huge majority of the sex workers don't agree with the plans to close down the
windows. Furthermore it also proves that behind each window is at least one woman that doesn't agree with it. And an additional 524 supporters signed our online petition, bringing the total amount of people that signed the petition to 938 people
that don't agree with closing down the windows.
With a much bigger group than expected, also the media turned out to be much more than we expected. Media from all over the world came to Amsterdam to report about this unique protest in one of the world's most famous prostitution areas.
Dutch brothel owners must be able to communicate with sex workers in their own language to supposedly to be able to protect them from abuse, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
The authorities in Amsterdam were right to refuse a brothel owner permission to operate because he could not speak Hungarian or Bulgarian, the ECJ claimed. The court said in a statement:
The court considers it is possible to require that a brothel owner be able to communicate in the same language with the prostitutes who work there.
Only then could a brothel, including Amsterdam's famous shop windows , be organised to prevent abuses and criminal offences against the sex workers, it claimed.
An Amsterdam window prostitute and blogger, who uses the pseudonym Felicia Anna, told the BBC communication was key to fighting issues such as trafficking. However, she said most of the sex workers she knew already communicated with brothel
owners - as well as clients and law enforcement - in second languages such as Dutch or English.
Meanwhile he brothel owner argued that he could use interpreters or online translation software instead. He invoked EU single market rules, saying Amsterdam's mayor, who is not named in the case, was being discriminatory and disproportionate
Sex workers working without a brothel license may risk a prison sentence of up to six months.
On 12 October 2015, the Act Regulating Prostitution (WRP) was taken up by the House of Representatives in the Netherlands, which is their parliament. The WRP proposes to criminalise all sex workers without authorisation/licensure, including
independent sex workers and camgirls/camboys. According to the Research and Documentation Centre, this will affect one third of all sex workers. Parliament will vote on the law proposal before the end of the year. Most political parties have
expressed their support of the law.
Felicia Anna and Hella Dee from PROUD, the Dutch union for sex workers, explained the sex workers' side:
Holland is moving more into criminalizing sex workers, violating their privacy rights and is moving away from Amnesty's proposal to decriminalize it and protect sex workers' rights. This country is really going crazy
It is often the only option for sex workers who wish to work independently in a situation where cities consistently refuse to give out licenses to any sex worker due to stigma. By working unlicensed, sex workers also avoid the oppressive
regulations and financially exploitative reality of the legal framework.
The main problem with 'prostitution' in Holland, is the shortage of workplaces due to the constant closures of legal workplaces (40% has been closed down already), while it's impossible to get a permit for a new workplace. But now they actually
want to throw sex workers in jail for not being able to get this impossible to get permit.
According to Hella Dee, unlicensed sex workers face all the issues of working within a criminalised environment, especially regarding police harassment. Sex workers report an increase in police violence and intimidation. Police officers out sex
workers to landlords and non-sex work employers, leading to eviction and loss of non-sex work income. Parents are reported to social services based solely on their profession. Police officers enter sex worker homes without their permission and
ask personal questions about their private (sex) lives - the proposed Act Regulation Prostitution (WRP) aims to legalise this practice. Tax office will demand high fines based on unrealistic assumptions about the number of clients sex workers
PROUD calls on all Members of Parliament to speak out against the WRP. PROUD also calls on the association of sex workers and allies to take action against this law.
Amsterdam closed eight massage parlors late last year after evidence was found indicating that they were used for illegal prostitution. Eight more massage parlors were told they have to close, newspaper Het Parool reports.
The local council investogated 22 parlors, most of them Thai and Chinese massage parlors. They looked for trace evidence, scantily clad women and sexually related objects in the parlors. They also looked at internet reviews.
Three of the checked massage parlors were clean, in three others there was not enough evidence to prove illegal prostitution took place. Eight were closed immediately and eight others were informed that they had to close.
The council claims that the parlours provide unsafe working environments and also considers unlicensed parlours to be unfair competition for licensed sex companies, who have to comply with various restrictive rules and regulations.
Amsterdam's borough council of Zuid is to ask people who use the area's massage salons about their experiences, in an effort to find out if they are offering 'happy endings'
Council wardens are also to keep watch on salons which are suspected of offering happy endings . It is the first time city officials will have taken an undercover approach to dealing with massage salons, according to the Parool
Over the past year, nine addresses in Zuid were checked by council inspectors and nine were closed down for periods of three months. One case, which centres on an internet review by a satisfied customer, is still pending in court. In total,
checks were carried out on 22 massage salons, mainly operated by Thai and Chinese nationals.
The closures are the result of a major effort to clamp down on massage parlours which also offer prostitutes and so compete with licenced brothels.
A majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Netherlands are supporting plans to make it an offence to pay for sex if sex workers are known or suspected to be victims of human trafficking. Sex work itself is legal in Holland.
Under the proposed law, clients will face prosecution if they could be shown to have had a serious suspicion that the sex worker was working under duress. Similar laws are in place in countries such as Sweden, Finland and parts of the
In Finland, where a similar law was introduced in 2015, it has made it harder to investigate trafficking. Jaana Kauppinen, who runs the sex worker-led organisation Pro-Tukipiste, says the new law is a failure:
When the attempt to buy sex is a punishable offence, the client has broken the law even if he turns and walks out the door and would have wanted to inform the police. The buyer no longer has the chance to look out for signs of human trafficking
in those initial stages, she says.
Detective chief sergeant Kenneth Eriksson, who has worked with sex workers for almost twenty years, says that prosecuting someone who gives police information about a human trafficker is nonsensical.
Of course there is always the risk that a client is scared of being prosecuted. Some people could, from now on, keep quiet, although we do have clients calling us sometimes and passing on information, even now.
If a client sees a sex worker is in some way being controlled and informs police, I would go so far as to say, at least with the situation in the capital, that that client should not be prosecuted. He has brought the problem to the authorities'
The Council of State Administrative Law division has upheld restrictive rules for brothel owners, that were initially introduced in 2013, but have been postponed due to a legal challenge.
The brothel keepers in Amsterdam's Red Light District must ensure that prostitutes should meet the minimum-age requirement of 21.
The owners are also obliged to interview sex workers in order to spot signs of human trafficking. A previous 2015 court judgement requires that Dutch brothel owners must speak the languages of the sex workers they hire. Reports of these
interviews should then be made available to municipal supervisors. However personal data of sex workers obtained during interviews does not have to be shared with municipal supervisors.
Among rules not upheld by the court is the requirement for the owners of window-based brothels to be held responsible for violations of hygiene rules, including cleanliness of the rooms and sex toys.
The decision by the Council of State is irrevocable and leaves no room for another appeal, the Parool reported.
Amsterdam Council has banned guided tours of its red light area from the 1st January next year.
The red-light district usually sits quite high on a tourist's list of must-sees when visiting this interesting city but according to The New York Times, Amsterdam's deputy mayor, Udo Kock, recently made a statement explaining it's outdated to
allow tourists to gape at sex workers' windows and view them as an attraction.
He claims that as the number of tourists walking through the red-light district grows, the amount of local paying clients decreases. Sex workers then lose business.
Tour companies are a bit put out and claim that tourists will still find themselves strolling the red-light district, but without guides reminding them to keep quiet and refrain from taking photographs.