Amsterdam reveals plans to change face of red-light district

Prostitution permit plan aimed at allowing women to work anonymously in safer areas

Amsterdam’s mayor is planning to issue sex worker permits for locations outside the city’s historic centre in an attempt to encourage women working from behind windows in the De Wallen red-light district to move out of the area.

Femke Halsema, the Dutch capital’s first female mayor, will launch a fresh push to change the face of the streets around the city’s docks next year, after the failure of a series of attempts to clean up the red-light district and make life tolerable for the women working there.

Women working in the area are increasingly unable to make a living, and are instead subjected to gawping and abuse from tourists, according to councillors from the GroenLinks, D66 and Socialist party, three of the parties in the city’s governing coalition.

The fourth governing party, the Dutch Labour party, has said it would prefer to continue a policy devised in 2014 to buy out the windows over a period of time, but has not ruled out giving its support.

Alexander Hammelburg, a councillor for the liberal D66 party, told the Het Parool newspaper that women would be able to “work in anonymity, freed from tourists who constantly take pictures” in the proposed locations. “The De Wallen is simply no longer the ideal place,” Hammelburg said.

The GroenLinks council member Femke Roosma said: “Think of a kind of hotel with rooms, equipped with an alarm button, a safe for the money and cameras outside.”

Nicole Temmink, a councillor for the Socialist party, said that the area’s history should not stand in the way of progress. “The fact that prostitution is concentrated in the red-light district is not an argument to leave it that way: if you find it too busy, or if you hear that those women do not like it any more, you should not ignore a discussion about an alternative. Is this how you want to attract people to your city?”

Increasingly, sex workers are finding work via the internet, and the windows in the De Wallen are being left empty, the councillors said.

Halsema, a member of the Groenlinks party, has already called for the red-light district to be closed intermittently to clean the streets of waste. Under a “code red”, when it is deemed that there are too many people on the streets, council workers would point tourists in the direction of less busy parts of the city.

She is also demanding an increased police presence and new powers to give tourists on-the-spot fines.

This year Amsterdam’s ombudsman, Arre Zuurmond, criticised city officials for their slow response to managing the crowds.

Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000 and sex workers are expected to pay taxes. Owners of sex businesses must obtain a licence and adhere to municipal rules. But Amsterdam has continued to attract human traffickers and criminal gangs forcing women from eastern Europe into prostitution.

Contributor

Daniel Boffey

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Amsterdam mayor under fire for red-light district closure idea
City’s first female mayor faces battle with sex workers over proposal intended to tackle human trafficking

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

04, Jul, 2019 @3:29 PM

Article image
Amsterdam's Green mayor looks to reform red-light district
As an MP, Femke Halsema helped make prostitution legal in the Netherlands. So why does she now want to overhaul an area where sex workers famously ply their trade?

Daniel Boffey in Amsterdam

16, Jan, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Amsterdam to ban 'disrespectful' tours of red-light district
Move is just one of measures taken to limit impact of mass tourism on historic city centre

Jon Henley European affairs correspondent

20, Mar, 2019 @5:47 PM

Article image
Amsterdam looks to bar foreign visitors from buying cannabis
Mayor cites survey of tourists in the Wallen and Singel as she looks to clean up overcrowded red-light areas

Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Jon Henley

13, Feb, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
Party’s over: Amsterdam plans to keep tourists ‘in penis outfits’ away
As Dutch capital reopens post-Covid, city is taking ‘extra measures’ to discourage excess

Jon Henley Europe correspondent

11, Jun, 2021 @3:56 PM

Article image
Amsterdam plans out-of-town ‘erotic centre’ as part of cleanup bid
Proposals for 5,000-sq-metre building detailed in document submitted to the council by mayor

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

06, May, 2021 @1:37 PM

Article image
Prostitution in the Netherlands: 'Paying for sex? It's strictly business'
Men who pay for sex in the Netherlands see no need to criminalise trade as other European countries consider change

Sabine Cessou in Amsterdam

11, Dec, 2013 @4:00 PM

Article image
Doctor to face Dutch prosecution for breach of euthanasia law
Lawyers claim elderly dementia patient did not clearly state she wanted to die

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

09, Nov, 2018 @4:21 PM

Article image
Large Roman fort built by Caligula discovered near Amsterdam
Fortified camp for thousands of soldiers thought to have been used by Emperor Claudius during conquest of Britain in AD43

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

26, Dec, 2021 @12:16 PM

Article image
Amsterdam ‘stumbling stones’ commemorate gay victims of Nazis
Four brass memorial plaques embedded in street remember Jews and resistance fighters

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

06, Aug, 2021 @2:36 PM