Amsterdam red light district overhaul proposed by first female mayor

Amsterdam red light district overhaul

Amsterdam red light district overhaul proposed by first female mayor. It has grown historically this way: women behind the windows in the Amsterdam Red Light District attract men to join them for some escapades. 

But in the famous red light district overhaul has become so popular with tourists that both residents and the sex workers themselves report experiencing a lot of nuisance. Drunk Englishmen screaming in front of the windows, scolding and laughing at women and photographing them against their will. 

The bustle, the mess, the crime, the situation is no longer tenable for the Amsterdam city council. And so Amsterdam’s first female mayor Halsema has opened the discussion about the future of window prostitution in the Red Light District: “We have a many-headed monster in the city.”

The city believes it cannot continue like this and is now sketching four scenarios for the future of the Red Light District:

  1. The curtains of the window brothels will be closed, sex workers will no longer be visible from the street. 
  2. Another option is to have fewer windows in the city center, but in other parts of the city, new workplaces may be added. 
  3. All window brothels on the Red Light District will close and the workplaces will be relocated to another location in the city. 
  4. The striking fourth scenario calls for more window brothels in the Red Light District so that the crowds in front the windows are spread.
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Halsema: “I have three conditions: better human rights for sex workers, less crime and less nuisance. I don’t want to drive prostitution out of the city, I am too pragmatic for that.”

According to Halsema, making the area where people can prostitute themselves smaller has led to greater crowds. “That area is smaller and therefore busier. If reducing illegal prostitution means that we have to provide more licensed places, through more windows or a prostitution hotel, then that is what we want.”

According to Halsema, the issue is hardly politically colored. “I do not speak on behalf of GroenLinks, but as the mayor of Amsterdam. If people are traded, recruited or exploited, then every Dutch person should be concerned about that.” 

Moreover, Halsema emphasizes that the debate must be conducted practically: “The debate is often conducted in a moralistic manner, I hope to get people to look for practical solutions.”

One of those solutions is to send an explorer to the Red Light District. “Many sex workers do not want to speak dutch. Almost all women in the Red Light District are foreign and you hardly hear them.” 

The municipality of Amsterdam will also organize a number of public meetings. “The people speak, then the council speaks and then we make a decision,” the mayor says.

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The mayor believes that if prostitution disappears from the Red Light District and the Singel, it will reappear elsewhere in the city, in brothels or a prostitution hotel. Because it is not her goal to chase sex work out of the city. Halsema wants to improve the working conditions of the sex workers, that they are less bothered by tourists, who shout, photograph and, as a crowd, form an obstacle for customers to enter.

The new policy must combat the crowds and nuisance in the city center and prevent human trafficking and other criminal activities. “These goals are not negotiable,” says Halsema in an interview  with Het Parool.

Relocation of all or part of the windows will have major consequences. Not only for the historic city center, but also for sex workers, operators and other stakeholders. This scenario has not yet been worked out. “Change is possible, but it takes time and money.”

More windows on the Red Light District will lead to even more crowds, Halsema realizes, but expansion can be an attractive option if it leads to sex workers getting out of sight and illegality.

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Paige Driessen

Paige is an Arizona native who loves the outdoor life. She writes about a wide range of topics for The Talking Democrat