Amsterdam plans reforms for red-light district

Mayor to issue sex worker permits for other locations in bid to change De Wallen area

File photograph of visitors at the Museum of Prostitution in De Wallen, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. File photograph: Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images

File photograph of visitors at the Museum of Prostitution in De Wallen, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. File photograph: Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images

 

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 across 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.

Sex workers in the area are increasingly unable to make a living, and are instead subjected to gawping and abuse from tourists, according to councillors from GroenLinks, D66 and the Socialists, 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 to the plan.

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

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 De Wallen are being left empty, the councillors said.

Fines for tourists

Ms Halsema, a member of the Groenlinks party, has already called for the red-light district to be closed intermittently to clean its streets of waste.

She is also demanding an increased police presence there 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 in the area.

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. – Guardian