Looking for a new appartment
Last time it took us about 6 months before we found an apartment where the landlord accepted my job. It was a long and hard search, and we got refused multiple times because of my job. They didn't always say it directly to us, but sometimes we just got turned down with the excuse that the apartment wasn't available anymore when they heard about my job, but when a couple of days later my boyfriend called them up again from a different number it turned out that was not the case at all.
Another apartment was also supposedly 'already taken', that apartment stayed empty for more then 6 months after our offer. Other agencies sometimes where just honest about it, and told us nobody would accept us with my job.
The last apartment we visited, before we found this apartment, was almost a closed deal already. I was just about to sign the contract, had all the money cash with me to pay everything, when the owner all of the sudden got cold feet about it, and started to worry about things. 'Yes, but what if you take your customers over here, I don't want that!' he replied. It's one of the many arguments I've heard from people about why they're scared to take in sex workers.
But even if you explain to them that the reason why you work behind the window is because you don't want your customers in your own house, they're still not convinced. After a while I had enough of arguing with him and told him I didn't want the apartment anymore. He was shocked, and all of the sudden started to say there was no problem and I could take it, but that I couldn't register my company at this adress. But I already had enough of it. Either you gladly accept your new tenants, or you don't start complaining.
Our current landowner didn't have a problem at all with it. It wasn't an issue for him as long as we kept the apartment nice and payed the rent in time. We don't have much contact with him, since we never have problems with him and he never has problems with us. He knows we always pay our rent in time, he knows we won't make a mess of his apartment, and he knows I won't bring customers to the apartment.
Yet, unfortunately not many other people think like him, as is the case now with our search for a new apartment. Getting apartment refused is not a surprise at all anymore. In fact, it's more of a surprise to us when people do accept it.
Today again was another example of getting refused purely based upon my job. We were interested in an apartment, but like always the agency first wanted to get some info about our income, our employers and our jobs. We feel no need to try and hide it, after all, if we lie about it they can always find out later and then we can get into even bigger problems. But often you don't even have to tell people what job you're doing, just saying you're from Romania and you're a self-employed business owner already tells them enough. Secondly, I'd way rather life in the apartment of someone who just accepts this job, rather then someone who only thinks about the prejudices about this job.
So my boyfriend wrote them an e-mail, stating our income, his employer details and our jobs. He also explained in the e-mail that I don't work from the apartment and keep my job and my private life strictly separate. And that's when we got the email back which stated:
I appreciate your honesty about your girlfriend, but the owner doesn't wish to rent to people from the sex industry. It will therefore be difficult to find an apartment through the agencies, because we all use basically the same criteria that we get from the landlords.
As you can see, also the agencies make no secret about it that sex workers get discriminated purely based on our job. Yet, I never understood exactly why. After all, prostitutes make enough money to pay for the rent, while other people who wish to rent an apartment in the center of Amsterdam would have to struggle to pay for the rents they ask in the city's center. Prices currently for an average apartment are around 1500 euro's a month or more. Yet, prostitutes who can make this money in one single weekend get refused, while others with less salary get accepted. I don't understand these people. Why do you wish to keep out people who you can be sure of that they can pay the rent, for people who may need to struggle each month to make that amount of money?
The main reason why people are so scared to rent to a prostitute is because they're ignorant about the job. They think we take our customers home. But if I wanted to take my customers home, then why would I still pay 150 euro a night for my working room if I'm not going to use it anyway?
Other people are scared it may attract other 'shady' type of people. But why would I want to attract 'shady' people to a place where I live? Don't they realize that I have to live there and not them? Why would I want shady people hanging around my house?
They automatically think that because you're a prostitute that you just hang out with shady people, criminals and dirty men, like that's something we enjoy in our own spare time. It's a typical example of how legally prostitution has been decriminalized, but not mentally yet. It may be a legal job, but people don't treat it any different because it's legal. We still get treated like lepers, like outcast, like vermin. The only thing that's changed is that now we're legal vermin, which means we have to pay taxes for being this, but unfortunately we haven't gotten any of the rights. Legalizing has got us all the obligations of paying taxes for instance, and having to work and live by the rules the government made up for us, but none of the rights regular people have, like opening a business bank account, getting a loan from a bank, a mortgage or even something as simple as renting an apartment.
But most of the times you don't even get to the point where you can explain these things to them. By default you're already an outcast, and not given any chance. They simply don't want to listen. After all, they can find 100 more people for you, even if they have trouble to pay the rent for it, it's still better then a prostitute. I truly don't understand this.
If things where up to me, I'd gladly accept prostitutes in my apartments. In fact, I'd even prefer it, since they always pay their rent on time, because they don't want any trouble added on the daily problems they already experience being a prostitute. And they'll try and be as quiet about it as they can, because if they don't, the neighbors might cause problems. So actually, prostitutes are very good people to accept in your apartments, since they'll avoid problems with you as much as possible, since you're one of the few people who will accept them, and it may be very difficult to find a new place for them. Plus they have more then enough money to pay for the rent, and they'll keep it quiet, because they don't want any trouble.
Sadly however, most prostitutes get refused. Even though prostitution is a completely legal job, we have all the registrations the government demands from us, we have a bookkeeper that does our administration for us, and we follow all the rules, people still won't accept us simply because of our job.
The search for an apartment is extremely difficult, especially in a city like Amsterdam, where searching for an apartment is already almost suicide. For this reason you'll often see girls living together. The few girls that do manage to get a house, often take in other girls who still haven't found one. And there are simply too few landlords accepting prostitutes, to take in each prostitute. This causes landlords who accept prostitutes to be in a monopoly position, in where they can demand everything from the prostitutes, because they know the girls can't find a place elsewhere easily. Yet, the police and politicians act surprised when they find 10 girls living together, and immediately see it as a sign of human trafficking.
When girls put everything on the name of their boyfriend, because the landlords will accept their boyfriends but not the girls themselves, people again call it human trafficking, because the girl pays for everything while it's in his name. Yes, of course it is in his name if you people will never accept prostitutes as residents!
And then some people act really surprised when some guys take advantage of these kind of situations, and use a girl who has these kind of trouble, to get a nice apartment and money for himself. Yes indeed, discriminating prostitutes like this, and not giving them the rights other people have, makes prostitutes more vulnerable for real human trafficking!
So, my dear readers, landlords, police officers and politicians. If you really want to fight human trafficking, I'd suggest you start by making sure we get the rights we deserve to have. That discrimination against prostitution stops. Only if prostitutes can move freely in this country, and are not subjected to constant discrimination, stigmatization and criminalization, you will make prostitutes less vulnerable to human trafficking. Anything that adds to the stigmatization, criminalization or discrimination of prostitutes is supporting and aiding human traffickers to gain more victims. On top of that, giving prostitutes more rights so they can move more freely does not only cause less women to become victim because they're in a vulnerable position, but also makes it easier to spot the girls that are forced into this job. After all, the more freely a prostitute can move and behave, the bigger the contrast will be with someone who cannot. So please stop the traffic, and give us the rights and not just the obligations.