Posted on: October 18, 2019
Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema is taking the next step in the debate about the future of the Red Light District of Amsterdam (locally known as ‘De Wallen’). She will investigate the relocation of prostitution to other parts of the city, including the neighborhoods where those new workplaces can be found. A prostitution hotel outside the Red Light District of Amsterdam is one of the options, she said during the council debate yesterday on Thursday 17th October 2019. At the request of the city council, Halsema also wants to investigate whether sex workers can be given the opportunity to attract customers online or receive them at home, which is not yet permitted.
Mayor Halsema uses this to pick out the points that can count on a majority in a further divided city council. The debate is slowly shifting in the direction in which Amsterdammers have to take into account that new workplaces will also be created for prostitutes outside the 3 area’s in the city with window brothels, which are: The Red Light District of Amsterdam (De Wallen), the Singel area and the Ruysdaelkade street. Few political parties object to this. The party Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy) is against the relocation, but in favor of strict enforcement, closure of window brothels in case of violation and then no new window brothel in return.
The number of window brothels in Amsterdam are currently +- 365. The Red Light District (De Wallen) counts 292 windows, the Singel area has 37 windows and the Ruysdaelkade also has 35. De Wallen used to have more window brothels before the start of gentrification-plan Project 1012 that changed window brothels into art-galleries, waffle stores, recycle stores, record shops, etc. 112 window brothels were closed in De Wallen since 2007, which costed 108 million euros in tax money. On 26th of June 2018, Amsterdam’s Court of Audit came with hard conclusions after analyzing Project 1012: “Gentrification-plan in Red Light District of Amsterdam failed”.
There is disagreement about whether this relocation will subsequently lead to fewer windows in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. The Socialist Party (SP) and Labour Party (PvdA) want to sacrifice part of the window brothels for this. The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Christian Union (CU) and Party of the Elderly (PvdO) even want all windows in Amsterdam’s Red Light District to close.
Green left (GL), Bij1 and Democrats66 (D66), on the other hand, want the window brothels to remain open and that, added together, there should be more workplaces in Amsterdam. Mayor Halsema leaves this in the middle for the time being. “I first want to work out this scenario better.”
A few of the almost 300 windows brothels in De Wallen Amsterdam.
Red Light United, an union for window prostitutes in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, surveyed 170 of the approximately 375 sex workers in that area. The survey concluded that 90% of the 170 prostitutes want to say in the Red Light District. They see nothing in moving windows from Amsterdam’s Red Light District to other parts of the city. They want to stay where they are. Their website states: “Sex workers Amsterdam’s Red Light District: It’s not too crowded and we don’t want to move away!” “Over 93% of the sex workers are against plans of relocating prostitution to another part of the city, and prefers to keep working behind the windows.”
Yesterday Red Light United tweeted: “Sex workers in the Red Light District want more windows in the Red Light District! We do not want to advertise online with or without curtains closed or work somewhere else. Provide more windows in the Red Light District and also more workplaces elsewhere in the city for other sex workers. Everyone wins!” (translated from Dutch into English)
On the 10th of July 2019, PROUD tweeted: “If you cannot change the behavior of tourists, you cannot simply move sex workers. We are not toys you can play with and move around simply because you are not pleased. We are legal independent business owners and you must work WITH us, not around us.”
The expectation is that some residents will resist a new brothel or prostitution hotel in their neighborhood. Amsterdam’s mayor is also investigating the financial consequences, saying that closing window brothels in the Red Light District of Amsterdam can cause hundreds of millions of plan damage.
The mayor ‘narrows’ the discussion that she started by formulating four scenarios: closing all window brothels in the Red Light District, expanding the number of window brothels in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, moving part of the window brothels to another location in Amsterdam, or close all curtains.
A majority of the council, consisting of GL, D66, PvdA and Bij1, want sex workers to be able to recruit their customers via internet. That should be possible at the new workplaces in Amsterdam, but also in the Red Light District, if prostitutes want to close their curtains, for example, to stay out of sight of tourists. Some sex workers in Amsterdam no need to advertise their services online, partly due to privacy reasons.
We asked people about their opinion on the possible removal of window brothels in Amsterdam. In total, 4,165 people were reached, 226 people voted. 18% answered yes. 82% is against removal of window brothels in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Both Dutch and foreigners participated in this poll.
The call for more enforcement in Amsterdam’s Red Light District is loud. Many stakeholders agree to this. The crowds is one of the reasons to intervene in window prostitution, in addition to combat human trafficking and safeguarding the human rights of prostitutes. Dutch Union for Sex Workers stated in an open letter to Amsterdam’s mayor: “we will tell you that good enforcers and tourist guides are important factors in combating nuisance”
According to the council of Amsterdam, it is not the sex workers who are to blame for the crowds, but a number of political groups note that the Red Light District is an international tourist attraction. More enforcers must ensure that tourists behave better, is mostly said by the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Forum for Democracy. According to mayor Halsema, the nuisance in Amsterdam’s Red Light District cannot be resolved with enforcement alone.