"Every day 400 prostitutes are being raped in Amsterdam"
"Every day 400 prostitutes are being raped in Amsterdam". These are the words of the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, words he has used already multiple times when it comes to a debate about prostitution in Amsterdam and defending his 'project 1012' to 'clean up' the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Words by the way, that where almost exactly copied by Marjolein Moorman, also from the same political party , the PVDA (Labor Party), during a debate about prostitution in the Amsterdam Red Light District, for the local news channel AT5 (view the debate here). But also by district attorney in Amsterdam, Jolanda de Boer. The line is obviously meant to shock people into supporting the plans of the PVDA to reduce the Red Light District, plans they have already partially been executed and they have been working on already since 2007 and the wings of former alderman Lodewijk Asscher at the time.

It comes from a scripted answer to defend the plans of the PVDA to close down more windows, a plan that in recent years has gotten more and more criticism for it's failures, and the answer goes something like this:
"There are 7000 prostitutes working in Amsterdam. Nobody knows exactly how many women are being forced into prostitution, because researches show very different numbers about how many prostitutes are being forced, from 8% to 90% and everything in between. So we don't know how many women are being forced into prostitution and are being raped on a daily base. But even if we take the lowest number of 8%, that still means 400 women are being raped on a daily base here in Amsterdam, and we shouldn't want that. So if you want to fight forced prostitution, you will support our plans, if not then you're supporting human trafficking."

The numbers are obviously meant to shock people into supporting the plans of the PVDA without question. Anyone who opposes the plans immediately disqualifies themselves by the added line 'if not, than you're supporting human trafficking'. And even if you try to reason with the people from the PVDA, they will always come back to 'their fact' that 400 women are being raped, and that 'if you're not with them, then you're supporting human trafficking'. And this is exactly why it's so hard to prove to people that the PVDA aren't really interested in the safety of women in prostitution, and that they're not 'saving' women from 'being raped', but that they're only interested in getting rid of the image Amsterdam has about prostitution and drugs (read more about that here).

But the PVDA are just manipulating people into supporting their plans using a story filled with holes. The first hole in this story comes from the fact that they're defending their policy on the Red Light District, 'project 1012', and using statistics from the Red Light District, while on the other hand referring to the total number of prostitutes that work in the entire prostitution industry in Amsterdam, and not just to those of the Red Light District. It's like doing a research on Starbucks and using their statistics to claim things about Starbucks, while relying on numbers from the entire catering industry.
So using the number of all the 7000 prostitutes working in Amsterdam, while we're talking just about the Red Light District where only around 900 prostitutes are working, is obviously a way to crank up the number of women 'being raped' into a shocking number, to get support for their plans.

But the second hole in their story is much bigger. It revolves around the use of the word 'rape', which is being used to imply horrific things happening in the prostitution industry. The word rape is used to imply that forced women are doing this job against their will, and that in a way it's rape. Of course this would never hold up in court since we're talking about forced labor rather then actual rape, but that doesn't stop the people from PVDA of using this word. But fact is, that the 8% they use in their story, are not all women who are being 'raped' as they claim. The 8% comes from a research about human trafficking, which is much more then just forced prostitution and the 'rape' they claim. Human trafficking also encompasses extortion and/or assisting the migration of a sex worker, stuff that has little to nothing to do with being forced, and certainly has nothing to do with 'being raped'.
In fact, if you look at the court cases about human trafficking, you'll often find that women weren't forced into prostitution, but they choose it themselves, and afterwards got into trouble with someone assisting them. Of course there are also cases of real forced prostitution, but certainly not every case of human trafficking is a case of forced prostitution. So claiming that 8% of the prostitutes are being raped, is hugely exaggerating things. This would only be the case if human trafficking only encompasses forced prostitution, which is definitely not the case.
So also the claim that 400 women would be 'raped' every day in Amsterdam, is simply false. The 400 women they are talking about, are the estimated number of victims of human trafficking, of which only a portion is being forced into prostitution or 'rape' like they call it.

Nobody knows exactly in how many cases of human trafficking there's also rape involved. It's also difficult to say, since even if rape would occur, that doesn't automatically come from the fact that they're victims of human trafficking. Also a prostitute can be raped outside of work and not by her 'pimp', just like every other woman can. And certainly those women who where victims of extortion or who where merely getting assistance into migration for sexwork, are not being raped.
But let's say that about 50% of the cases of human trafficking would involve rape, which is very high, seeing the number of court cases that I've come across with and have much less then half of them involved a woman being forced into performing sexual acts. But let's just say it's 50% to 'humor' Van der Laan and the rest of the PVDA. That would mean that from the 900 prostitutes working in the Red Light District, of which 8% are victims of human trafficking (72 prostitutes), we would be talking about 36 women (50% of the 72) that would actually be 'raped' as they call it.
That's a very different story from the 400 women that mayor Van der Laan claimed, and although 36 women are still way too many, I think it gives a very different view on prostitution than the one the PVDA would like us to have. We're talking about 36 women, from the 900 that are working there!
No offense, but don't you think closing down the workplace of 900 women to 'save' 36 women is overreacting a little bit? And by the way, in what way is closing the work place for these women, going to save those 36 from being raped? Do they really think those women who are being raped wouldn't be put to work somewhere else by their pimp, if they lost their place to work in the Red Light District?

It seems that the PVDA is defending their plans for closing down windows in the Red Light District of Amsterdam using a scare tactic, in which the more horrific they can make their story, the more support they'll get. Of course to they eyes of the general public this is invisible since they have no idea, but not to those that are in or are related to prostitution. But the PVDA has very cleverly put everyone that is connected to prostitution away as criminals, disqualifying them from the debate, and have silenced everybody else who stood up against them as 'a supporter of human trafficking' if they do not agree.
As I've talked about before in this post here, closing down the windows in the Red Light District doesn't stop human trafficking and forced prostitution, but in fact only makes the chances of human trafficking bigger because the police and other authorities loose them out of sight. After all, how can you fight something if you can't see it?

You could even say that the plans from the PVDA to reduce the number of windows in Amsterdam, is supporting human trafficking and forced prostitution. After all, it's because of their policy that women have lost their safe workplace, and by taking away their safety of their workplace, they've indirectly been responsible for all the women that have become victims of human trafficking, due to the fact that they where not protected anymore.
In fact, it's almost as if mayor Van der Laan seems to be protecting pimps, by keeping them out of sight of the police and other authorities, by moving those women away from protected areas like the Red Light District, causing them to work unprotected in prostitution, like in hotels and homes.
They've also neglected to support the women who lost their safe workplace in the Red Light, neglecting to look after their safety. Now isn't one of the first priorities for any government to look after the safety of the people living and working there? Then how can you claim to fight human trafficking, by removing people from a safe place to work, leaving them no other option (since they get no help or support) but to work in places that don't provide the safety the Red Light District offers?
After all, where are these women to go, if they loose their safe workplace, don't get any help or support from anyone, loose their income, and are not being monitored or helped by anyone, with a good chance of ending up in the very hands of those the PVDA claims to be protecting them from?
If you're reducing the number of safe workplaces for people, and not offering them any way out, or any help to get started somewhere or with something else, you're neglecting those people, and you are responsible for what happens to those people. And can anyone explain to me why people think it's a good reason to reduce the number of safe workplaces for employers, and why anyone could even think that reducing the number of safe workplaces will help the safety?

No, the mayor of Amsterdam, and with him the PVDA in Amsterdam itself, has no interest in saving women from being raped. They only pretend to be the saviors, while actually helping the pimps to stay out of the hands of the police and other authorities, by forcing prostitutes to work in places that are less protected. The PVDA is helping pimps, and is helping forced prostitution and human trafficking with their plans to close down safe workplaces in the Red Light District.
Fact is that right now there may be around 36 women that are being raped on a daily base in the Red Light District, but if the PVDA continues with their plans, the total number of prostitutes in Amsterdam getting raped might get much higher then the 400 that Van der Laan talked about. If that is their goal, they should continue closing down more windows. But if they want to save women from forced prostitution, they should offer them a safe place to work, a right that every worker has.
So if they really want to fight human trafficking, they will create new workplaces in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, to ensure the safety of the women working there now, and also to ensure the safety of the women that have lost their safe workplace due to the policy of the city government and the PVDA. Create more safe workplaces, so you can ensure the safety of more women, to protect them against pimps and traffickers and fight forced prostitution. You're not gonna safe them if you can't find them after you kick them out.

Dutch version
9 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hi, I just got back from Amsterdam. Hot and busy. And pleased to see that you have been hard at work writing while I've been playing. I see exactly what your point is but using a reference like: " Fact is that right now there may be around 36 women that are being raped on a daily base in the Red Light District," is maybe not helpful. There is an honesty about it and that is healthy (and I see that you are working with official statistics in order to discredit official statistics), but unfortunately, the politician and others can use that: "Even the blogger ..... says that there may as many as 36 .... and one is too many, so you see we were right all along." Yes, one is too many but the thing about estimates (high or low) is that they are estimates. And estimates are 'made up numbers'. Estimates by definition are fiction. And estimates which vary so wildly have no credence. Your basic argument, of course, is right. Can anyone justify disrupting the lives

    This weekend I did some asking around about how many window workers know about your efforts. None in that survey. That's partly because they don't have regular access to the Internet. I seem to recall that somewhere along the line you you said that you were motivated to correct misinformation with a hope to bring people (the general public) on-side (and so resist the politicians). The more I think about it, the harder it is to visualise those people becoming politically active on your behalf. Like it or not, you have become political. Feminists are full of themselves regarding "Strong young women who speak out," well now we have found one (the feminists have remained deafeningly quite again). I can't help feeling that your target audience should include the women working in prostitution in Amsterdam (starting with De Wallen), with a view to representing their collective voice (with their support and encouragement). In order to do that they need to know that Felicia Anna exists and they need to know what she is doing (and what the politicians are doing). And your readers could help in that respect by pointing the women they visit at your website (you can still remain anonymous). At the same time you do have allies in Amsterdam, influenetial people who have a positive reputation. Maybe making contact with a view to discussing how to tackle this issue would pay dividends. I recall mentioning an open letter to the press around the time of the debate on raising the age for working in the windows. Mariska signed that letter. She knows who was on it, ie has a contact list. Anyway, that's my thought for the day. Looking forward to your next post. PS. Made no effort to find you. Too hard! Regards. Marcus.

  2. Frans Says:

    As you have suggested before, the Amsterdam prostitution mission (actually a slow-death strangulation policy for De Wallen) is not really motivated by improving the social position of prostitutes in general or even fighting sex trafficking, as stated and preached by hypocritical local politicians, Mayor Van der Laan in the first place. If this were really their honest motivation, politicians would have gone overboard with publicizing the smallest result in improving working conditions, safety, and a better life for prostitutes they so much care about. But after SEVEN years of apparently intense fighting the so-called wrongs, with national and international allies, with local police squads performing raids, with the help of the Ministry of Justice, with a special national Reporter Human Trafficking, with a special Monitor Prostitution and Human Trafficking within the national Police Force, with local and national NGOs offering support, help, and exit programs, with a special prostitution department in City Hall, with local field inspectors covering the 3 red light districts, with closing down close to 150 windows in the red light districts, and with a new City Ordnance (APV) for prostitution businesses, progress and improvement have not been reported in Amsterdam or anywhere else, at least as far as I know. Instead, the number quoted by politicians of prostitutes being forced and / or raped has been the same for years. Since it is objectively unlikely that all their so-called efforts in favor of the prostitutes' conditions and safety show no effect at all after seven long years, but that cleaning-up De Wallen is right on schedule with the plans of the city's Project 1012, the city will probably keep using its trafficking and rape rhetoric until Project 1012 has been completed. Then it will probably drop its trafficking rhetoric, lose its interest in the well-being of sex workers and in loudly touting how it fights wrongs in the local sex business. It could even return to its relative tolerance policy from the Nineties. This seems to me the extent of the city's false morality policy: abuse of the sex industry and total disdain for sex workers' rights as citizens and human beings just to get an unrelated business agenda accomplished. Immoral Policy. Obviously, you never hear city politicians refer to Mariska Majoor's and Else Rijerse's powerfully little statue "Belle" in front of the Old Church, or to its inscription: RESPECT SEX WORKERS ALL OVER THE WORLD. It was installed in 2007, right when the city initiated its hypocritical Wallen policy. Coincidence?

    In the AT5 "debate" you link to in the 1st paragraph, Metje Blaak mentions the recent report by prof. Henk Wagenaar, "Complexity and Challenges in Prostitution Policy," published in July 2013. Quite obviously the two politicians had not read this excellent research, or didn't want to admit in public that they had read it.
    For readers who don't know it, here is the link where you can download its 138 pages. On p.55 and following, prof. Wagenaar formulates and discusses "Morality Policy" and the tools that policy makers use for it, always to the detriment of sex workers and sex work in general. It also fits the Amsterdam situation perfectly, reason why politicians simply neglect it:

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Loved Frans's post (finger most definitely on the pulse). Look forward to reading the reference. I made a point of photographing the 'improvements' to the red light district during my most recent visit. If I was a tax payer, I would be asking for my money back THIS is it, after 7 years!!!! I looked at the snack bars between Dollebeginsteeg and Trompetersteeg and laughed out loud (and took more photos). Someone should be asking questions about political competence. How many millions of euros did those snack bars (not all opened yet!!!!!) cost? The degree of political incompetence is (quite frankly) breath takingly frightening.

  4. Rootman Says:

    Off topic, but important:

    Felicia, I want to warn you about the site reason.com (you linked to in one of your twitters)!

    Although their opinion about prostitution is just about what many of us think, and seems therefore worth linking to, it has a very dark side to it: extremely racist, xenophobic, antisemitic and promoting pedophilia.

    Also extremely misogynistic!

    Very toxic in my opinion!!! (linking makes one guilty by association, in many peoples eyes). Warn your collegue bloggers!

    (first version of this comment deleted because of typos)


  5. Rootman Says:

    About the song of Christina Borguez ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUh9fbM1uXk ) , wich suggests the Wallen is a hellhole of child prostitution: At the end of the clip the web adress of a NGO called ijmnl.org is shown:

    This is a rabid evangelical anti sex work organisation: via NGO watch:


    ´International Justice Mission is an evangelical NGO that "seeks to restore to victims of oppression the things that God intends for them."
    The so-called "rescue" work promoted by organizations like IJM translates to actions that are nothing short of violent, neocolonialist oppression against an easy target: brothel workers in developing countries. IJM uses its power to pressure governments to crack down on the whole sex industry as an "anti-trafficking" measure, which leads to violent raids from famously corrupt police forces in countries like Cambodia, the Philippines, and India. The people caught up in these raids frequently report being beaten and raped by the police who are supposedly "rescuing" them, and are detained against their will in privately-funded locked-door "rehabilitation centers" or in overcrowded jails. ´

    http://www.swaay.org/ is a GOOD, pro-sex work NGO

    Anyway: ijm.org is the worst of the worst

  6. Felicia Anna Says:

    Great research! Perhaps you should post this on her YouTube video comments as well, so the singer can decide for herself if she wants to support such an organisation.
    But thank you very much for the tip!

  7. Rootman Says:

    ´Perhaps you should post this on her YouTube video comments as well, so the singer can decide for herself if she wants to support such an organisation.´

    I think not! ms Boroguez is ´ambassador´ of IJM, has started her career in evangelical revival bands.

    She has sold out her soul a long time ago!


  8. Anonymous Says:

    Very interesting. Thanks.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Pretty clear that city government is using trafficking as an excuse to close windows when in reality it makes the lives of sex workers more difficult and dangerous.

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