Amsterdam’s first female mayor wants to protect the city’s world-famous legal prostitutes from crowds of unruly tourists – by restricting or banning the practice of displaying the sex workers in brothel windows.
Mayor Femke Halsema, a liberal and well-known supporter of sex worker rights, has outlined a plan to overhaul city’s red-light district, which includes cracking down on crime, re-locating some establishments to reduce tourist crowding, and reducing the number of windowed brothels that advertise their prostitutes on public streets – or eliminating them altogether.
“For many visitors, the sex workers have become no more than an attraction to look at. In some cases this is accompanied by disruptive behaviour and a disrespectful attitude to the sex workers in the windows,” Halsema’s office said in a statement, adding that illicit underground prostitution has seen a major resurgence.
Halsema also stressed the need to protect the sex trade from human trafficking, and said she would meet with sex workers and other interested parties to discuss her proposals later this month.
Nightlife in Amsterdam has been known to get unruly, with the city’s ombudsman Arre Zuurmond warning last year that some tourist hotspots transform into an “urban jungle” after dark, where police are overwhelmed by a flourishing drug trade and widespread thefts, among other offenses.
Zuurmond blamed Dutch government policy for many of Amsterdam’s problems, which he said seeks to stimulate tourism in the city for economic reasons.
The new initiative is not the first time the city tried to address the longstanding issues in its red light district, which occupies only a small part of Amsterdam. Last year city officials introduced a number of reforms to solve the issue of overcrowded streets, which included disbursing crowds and handing out on-the-spot fines for offenses like littering and public urination. The effort also saw a reduction in the number of windowed brothels in the city, though over 300 remain.
Some 7,000 people work in Amsterdam’s sex trade, according to official figures, with around three quarters of them traveling to the city from low-income countries. Sex work was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000.