City center council meeting: Working contracts
The city council has always proclaimed the project was about gaining back control in the Amsterdam Red Light District, taking back control from the criminals, from the mob, from the human traffickers and pimps. In reality the project has always been a project to reduce the Red Light District area with it's window prostitution and coffeeshops with 40%, in hopes of attracting a different type of tourist.
Prostitution windows have been closed under the pretenses of 'fighting human trafficking', but in reality is nothing more then an attempt to reduce the Red Light District area itself and the tourists that visit it.
Thusfar 109 prostitution windows have been closed down (or actually bought for 31 million euro), under the claim of fighting human trafficking. In reality many women lost one of the few still legal workplaces for prostitutes in this country, and were left unattended for by the city government. Where these women are now nobody knows, but with the recent closing of 150 windows in Utrecht, and more windows threatened to close in Amsterdam (read here), it's not hard to guess where these women went to. Many left the country in favor of other countries that offer a safe haven for prostitution, like Germany. Many others continued their work in illegal prostitution, something that only recently have come to the attention of the authorities.
During the meeting, that was open to the public, director of the Amsterdam prostitution program Yolanda van Doeveren was there to explain the city center council what she's been doing with her program and what the results were. I listened closely to what she had to say, with the help of my boyfriend, and was shocked. Some of the things she says are completely true, other things however seemed to have been pure propaganda from the mayor, to ensure his project 1012 wasn't at risk.
Another thing that shocked me, was the complete lack of information and knowledge the politicians had regarding prostitution. They seem to have no idea even how things work, let alone that they could spot the (many) false pieces of information that was given out to them in order to deceive them.
For those of you that wish to look back the entire meeting, you can watch it back online on this link. I'll also put a time frame at my mentions, so you can keep track of what part of the meeting I'm talking about exactly. I've also split the entire meeting into three parts, since the meeting was over 3 hours long, and I wanted to make sure I made everything very clear to everyone. This part will focus on the working contracts, check at the bottom of this posts for the second part about the involvement of the prostitutes itself with the policy and the third part in where I answer some of the questions the politicians had directly.
Here comes the first part:
One of the biggest pieces of misinformation was about working contracts (1.39:10). Yolanda van Doeveren explained women working behind the windows rent their rooms day by day, and this is absolutely true. But then she claimed something that is completely false. She claimed that window owners make contracts with prostitutes that are for a longer period then just one day, mostly one week.
I think Yolanda van Doeveren has been talking and listening too much to Ilonka Stakelborough, because I recognize this from a newspaper article from a while back, which I also wrote about on my blog here. But since some things have changed a bit, let me make it one more time really clear.
There are NO contracts. All women in the Red Light District rent their windows on a day by day base. Prostitutes can get a fixed room for themselves, in which case the window owner will reserve that particular window just for that girl, but under no circumstances are contracts being signed or made.
Getting a fixed room for yourself means basically nothing more that the window owner won't rent out the window to another girl. And of course, if you don't show up (for whatever reason), and the window owner was counting on you, and the next day you show up again, then indeed you have to pay for that room if you want the same room again. If you don't show up anymore, you don't have to pay.
Actually it's a very simple deal. If you have a fixed room, the rooms is yours as long as you pay for it. If you don't pay for the room anymore (because you didn't show up for example), you loose the room. Of course you can still get another room, but in no way are girls held back to quit this job, or otherwise take a day off without paying for it.
But even if you want to take a day off without risking to loose you own room afterwards, the window owner provides plenty of services. Let's say you have your own room, and you don't want to work 7 days. The window owner allows you to take two free days a week without paying for it, and without loosing the room. If you want to get a break from work for a longer period, for example to go on vacation, the window owner allows you besides those two free days a week, the opportunity to take up to maximum two months(!) of free days.
In reality this basically comes down to the fact that most girls who have a fixed room, take one or two free days a week. When they go on vacation they just tell this to their office, and they can take two months free. If they wish to take more then two months free, and still want to come back to their own room, they can do that if they pay for the room during the period that extends the two months. Of course they can also choose not to, no problem at all, but then there's a chance that another girl will have the room when they get back, and the girl will have to rent a different room.
But let me make things very clear to everyone, that under no circumstances are girls held back by contracts to quit this job, because they have their own room. If they want, they can quit any minute of the day. And even if you rent your room, that still doesn't mean you actually have to work, just as long as you pay for the room, the window owner doesn't care if you're working or not.
Yolanda van Doeveren her claim that in reality many women work 7 days a week, because they have to pay for their room seven days a week, is completely false, it isn't even allowed anymore to work 7 days a week. These women can take two free days a week, and if they get sick, they can just take a week off without having to pay for it, without loosing the room.
This is it for the first part. The meeting was over 3 hours long, and I wanted to make sure that the things I wrote down here are absolutely clear to everyone, so there can be no mistakes regarding the answers. I've split the entire meeting into three parts.
Read here part 2 about the our involvement in the policies.
Read here part 3 with the answers to the most important questions from politicians.