Amsterdam's cure for forced prostitution
In the summer of 2007 the city government of Amsterdam came with a plan to fight human trafficking and other criminal activities happening in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. As former alderman from the city government of Amsterdam, Lodewijk Asscher, put it, they thought it was terrible, the idea that there would be forced women working in prostitution in Amsterdam, so they wanted to do something about that.
In my opinion, it's a very good thing that the city government of Amsterdam wants to do something about that. Since I wouldn't want, and I think nobody else wants that either, that someone's being forced to do something they don't want to do. So far so good.

The plan they came up with was to close down a large part of the windows in Amsterdam for prostitution, in order to fight human trafficking and fight prostitution. This project was called 1012, after the area's postal code. What's beyond me, is in what way would closing down the windows help to fight human trafficking and forced prostitution, and more importantly, how does it safe the victims from that?
Behind the windows in the Red Light District of Amsterdam you're safe. There's police walking around there all day and all night long. You've got an alarm button you can push when you have problems. There's a lot of social control from the other girls working there, and the owners of the windows who look out for the girls.
You regularly get people from the city government, police and other government institutions, to check on you, to ask you if you're okay, if everything is going alright. If you have any problems, you can always go to them, or if they are there you can talk to them. In short, one of the safest places to work for prostitutes in the world.

Since the project has started, the city government has closed dozens of windows. Not because they found criminal activities, since they lost every single court case on that, but simply with money. They bought out the owners of the windows. Today those windows are being occupied by artists and other 'creative' people, of which most don't even pay rent, or pay very little rent at all.
Where the women have gone to that where working in those windows however, nobody knows. The city government of Amsterdam was apparently so interested in saving these girls from forced prostitution, that they simply forgot they even existed. The girls where without a room to work, and literally where on the street the next day. Nobody knows where these women are now, since the other windows are already occupied by other girls working there.

It's a pure guess what happened to the women. Did they find another window in Amsterdam? I doubt that, since there are already so many girls who want to work behind a window, and there's a fight for a window every single day, I doubt there was room for these girls to work there as well. So what where did the city government do for the women that lost their place to work? Did the city government offer them anything? Did they offer them another job? Did they offer them another place to work? Did they ever ask them how these girls could now pay the rent to their apartments? Did they ever ask those girls how they could live without a place to work? No!
The city government didn't do anything, for those girls they supposedly where 'so worried' about. In stead, all they did was buy more windows, leaving less room for girls to work in, pushing them away into nothingness.

So what options did these girls have? Finding another room in Amsterdam would be difficult, since they're closing down more and more every time. That leaves only a few options. Either they moved to another country, or they try to work from another place here, like a hotel room or an apartment, or perhaps even on the street if they really needed to.
But if you work from a hotel room or an apartment, who can you call for help? The police isn't nearby, you don't have an alarm button to push, and there's no social control anymore from the other girls because you're now all alone. The only way to get protection, is to hire someone, but that brings again the risk of being exploited, and that's exactly what the city government of Amsterdam was trying to avoid.
So in stead of improving the situations for the women, by closing down the windows, all they did is put them in a more dangerous place. They didn't solve any problem, they just created more problems.

And what do you think would happen to a prostitute that is getting forced? Do you think her pimp would simply let her go because her window closed down? Did they catch those pimps by closing down windows? Where are these forced prostitutes now? Nobody knows, since the city government of Amsterdam really wasn't interested in them at all. In fact, they where never interested in fighting human trafficking and forced prostitution, or any crime at all. All the achieved was loosing those forced prostitutes out of sight, with the risk of now having nobody to help them anymore. How can you help a forced prostitute if you don't know where she is? How can you help such a girl, if the police can't find her? For all we know her situation is now worse than it was before. Before she could get help from the police, now there's nobody to help her anymore. The city government never wanted to fight forced prostitution and human trafficking, they simply want the Red Light District to slowly disappear, leaving the girls on their own, and the forced prostitutes without any help.

The buildings that where previously owned by the windows owners, where not directly bought by the city government of Amsterdam however. In stead the city government found partners in several real estate companies. Those real estate companies that bought the buildings, where however not very successful at renting out the buildings to new companies that where keen on a place in the Red Light District. In stead the windows are now rented out as shops, often for an extremely low price, or sometimes even to artists who pay nothing at all.
Now the windows that used to be a safe place to work for prostitutes, have become awful looking shops, with terrible looking dresses, cheese shops, and other nonsense that nobody wants there. Even outlet stores have better looking clothes than the people are selling in those windows now.

But because the new inhabitants of these buildings are not very successful businesses or artists, the real estate companies loose a lot of money on the project. This is also the reason the real estate companies now have decided to quit buying new buildings from window owners, since they cost a lot of money, and thus far the project has been hugely unsuccessful. The mayor of Amsterdam is therefore looking to the U.S. for companies that might be interested in supporting their project, to buy the remaining windows that are scheduled for loosing their prostitution destination.
If they where ever really so interested in removing the criminal activities from the Red Light District in Amsterdam, than why didn't they simply allow the girls in those buildings to work there and not having to pay rent, in stead of some bullshit fashion shop that's now paying nothing for it's rent.

In my opinion fighting the problem of crime is very simple. If you have a problem of people stealing from shops, do you close down the shops? Or do you try to catch those people who are stealing? In my opinion all the city government did, was close down the shops, where we work, leaving dozens of women without an income and a safe place to work, and let the bad guys run away with the money. If they where really interested in fighting human trafficking and forced prostitution, they would try to keep an eye on the girls as close as possible, not pushing them away somewhere else where nobody has control over it. But the city government doesn't care about us, not about the prostitutes, not about the victims of human trafficking. All they care about is themselves.

Dutch version
4 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Wow! I am hitting this Blog at 7126 readers - and that is cool, I have watched the site grow (enormously) in the last few days.Thanks for this comment on the 'lost women' of De Wallen and the government's lack of compassion and undiluted prejudice. I really wish that I was a lawyer, I would take the bastards to the cleaners via Human Rights Legislation. I would break Asscher on the rack. War criminal? Don't be stupid! Whore criminal!!!

    (So look for a Human Rights Lawyer who is a positivist feminist and who will do Pro Bono.)

    Meanwhile, there are two posts that I would like to read:

    How you came to be a prostitute. (Lace it with vignettes of your acquaintances).

    What is an 'average day like' - think of it like a diary. And here it is important to be totally honest. Maybe taking a particular day isn't representative - in which case, make the case for the way that it changes. I try to show what it is like - but I am an unreliable witness. You are not. Tell it.


  2. Korhomme Says:

    Your blogs are always fascinating; I'm very impressed with your command of English!

    There's a concept in manager- and economic-speak: the "expressed" and the "espoused" opinion and action.

    The politicians are saying that they want to end trafficking by buying up the windows—their "expressed" opinion.

    Actually, they might want to end all prostitution, their "espoused" opinion.

    To achieve their aims (in public), they oppose trafficking—which any reasonable person would do—and aim to close so many windows, to make it difficult for traffickers. But the reality is that they want Amsterdam to loose its status as the prostitution capital of Europe.

    They don't explain how reducing the number of windows will actually reduce trafficking—and the average member of the public doesn't argue with this, they take it as read. But, of course, it is a logical fallacy.

    Now, if I put it to you like this, how do you respond? I should say that I have never been to Amsterdam, and I don't know much about Dutch politicians. But I do know that often politicians have an agenda, hidden from the public, and they can use underhand methods to try to push it through.


  3. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Anonymous May 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM
    That's very good feedback, thank you.

    There's still so much to write about, but they are mainly about political and policies they have here or are coming up with. On top of that I also still want to write some posts about some other rescue organisations that really bug me.

    But I don't want to get stuck into writing things that other people already wrote about. I also want to talk more about things that only myself as a prostitute can tell, since that's one of the things that makes this blog so interesting in my idea.

    The problem with that however, is that I don't know so well what to write about myself that could be interesting for you, since to me it's very normal.

    So thank you very much for your feedback, I appreciate it a lot.
    If there are other people out there that are interested in topics from a prostitute's perspective, please let me know so I can discuss them here on my blog.

    @Korhomme
    You're absolutely right. The politicians are using a Trojan horse technique. Pretending to be the saviors of victims, while in reality pushing them more into danger for their own goals.

    I don't think however that the local politicians of the city government of Amsterdam are interested in loosing prostitution completely, since they also know that would cost them too much, in terms of income from tourism. They just wanted to make the Red Light District smaller, and they needed an excuse for it, which became the fight of human trafficking, because everybody agrees on fighting that.

    On a national level however, there are some opinion makers and politicians that are interested in shutting down prostitution completely. Most of them are feminists or christian people, but I don't think that comes as a surprise to anyone.

    I will write a post explaining exactly what the motives are for the city government to reduce the numbers of windows in Amsterdam, but I need to explain some things about the local politics first, in order to do that. That's why I've reserved a separate post for the reason why, and I've not posted it in this post here already.

    But I can reveal a bit of the conclusion, which all revolves around influential local inhabitants of the center of Amsterdam, that simply wanted to get rid of drunk visitors of the Amsterdam Red Light District.


  4. Korhomme Says:

    I look forward to your next posts with interest.

    BTW, the "expressed" and "espoused" viewpoints are terms from management-speak.

    Economists use "declared preferences" and "revealed preferences" instead, though I think that the two sets of terms are actually the same thing..


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.