Less human trafficking in Amsterdam
Human trafficking is decreasing immensely in Amsterdam. This is the conclusion of a report made by the city government of Amsterdam itself about the developments of prostitution in 2013 (report here).
The report itself shows that from the 124 victims who pressed charges for human trafficking in 2012 numbers have now decreased to only 32 victims in 2013, a decrease of 74%! Also the number of human trafficking suspects that were prosecuted has decreased from 35 suspects in 2012 to only 21 suspects in 2013, a decrease of 40%.

The report shows quite a different image from what people have been getting about prostitution in Amsterdam, and specifically about the Red Light District. With percentages of 50%, 80% and 90% politicians have tried in the last couple of years to give the image to people that prostitution in Amsterdam, and specifically in the Red Light District, was a crime filled environment. But yet again cold hard facts point in a different direction. Just like with the anti-human trafficking campaign results as I talked about here, and all the police raids they've done in the past years in different cities with window prostitution, but also with illegal prostitution, it turns out the real numbers of human trafficking are far lower then that.

As the report states, last year in 2013, there were 21 people prosecuted for human trafficking. In total 7 cases (33%) resulted in a complete clear of all human trafficking charges. In all of the cases where charges were cleared regarding human trafficking, the prostitute herself claimed not to be a victim of human trafficking, but was branded by the district attorney as victim. In other words, she wasn't a victim, but because the district attorney and the police were convinced she was a victim, it had to come to a court case to prove that the girl wasn't a victim after all. This also leaves only 14 people who were convicted of human trafficking from all the 21 people who were prosecuted in 2013, an extremely low number if you compare if to the 4000 to 6000 prostitutes that are reportedly working in Amsterdam.
But also the number of victims who pressed charges, 32 in 2013 compared to the 124 in 2012 has decreased immensely with 74%. Based on the 4000 to 6000 prostitutes that are working in Amsterdam, this comes down between 0,8% and 0,5% of the total amount of legal working prostitutes working in Amsterdam. This number is very low considering the earlier made statements by both politicians and police that the numbers of human trafficking in prostitution would be around 50 to 90%. Especially if you realize that more victims are coming from illegal prostitution.

According to the district attorney of Amsterdam for human trafficking cases herself, Jolanda de Boer, this is just the tip of the ice berg, or so she wants to make us believe in an article that was posted in July of this year in a local newspaper.
Her words are: 'We still don't know if it's about ten or eighty percentage of the prostitutes that are being abused in Amsterdam. But even with ten percent we're still talking about 400 cases a day.'
Her words look remarkably close to the exact words of mayor Eberhard van der Laan, which were later copied word for word by party member of the PVDA, Marjolein Moorman. In fact, these are the exact same words he and Moorman used, the only difference is that Jolanda de Boer, district attorney, doesn't dare to use the words rape in this case.
I think it's remarkable that a district attorney copies the exact words of a politician, especially since the words are twisted to give people the wrong impression, like I explained here. In fact, district attorney Jolanda de Boer seems to become political with these words, and clearly choose a political side, something I don't think is a good thing for the independence of the justice system in this country. I think it's highly undesirable that a district attorney becomes political in her function, especially when it comes to manipulating the public's opinion about things, with phrases like these.

Jolanda de Boer claims in the article that these 'twenty to thirty cases a year' however are just the tip of the ice berg. But whoever looks deeper into the report comes to a different conclusion. In 2013 window prostitutes were checked 1968 times by the city governments own controllers, on top of the 567 checks from the police. That's in total 2535 checks for around 900 women who are working behind the window in Amsterdam in total, meaning each prostitute gets checked around three times a year. From those 2535 window checks 11 times police and/or controllers from the city government picked up signs of human trafficking (read here more about those).
Jolanda de Boer claims the reason why we don't see more of the tip of this particular ice berg, is because of a lack in man power. However with 2535 checks a year on 900 women and only 11 reported possible victims I sincerely doubt that. They have man power enough to check each woman 3 times a year, and still they where only able to find 11 possible victims.
It's also pretty sure to say those 11 'possible victims' that were reported by them included the 7 cases in were women objected being a victim. After all, it wouldn't make sense if she would have pressed charges herself if she didn't consider herself to be a victim. So we can say pretty sure that the at least 7 women (because every case involves at least one women, but could also involve more women) come from that group of 11 women that were reported by the police and controllers themselves.
This would conclude that in at least 63% of the cases (7 from all 11 even reported women) police and controllers reported a girl as victim, although she denies, and it's also proven later in court that this was not the case. A typical example of how often police and controllers have a wrong image about people in prostitution.

That police and controllers often get the wrong image about things in prostitution is not something new. Many prostitutes, in fact I think even most prostitutes, report that police often sees them as victims, and often sees their partners (either boyfriends or husbands) as pimps. These statistics confirm that image as in at least  63% of the cases police and controllers got the wrong image, and the suspect was set free after trial.
I myself have experience with this when the police told me during an interrogation a couple of years ago that they though also I was a victim of trafficking. In their opinion it was 'very suspicious' that I was always alone (I hadn't met my boyfriend at the time), yet other women are often being seen as possible victims when they're with their boyfriend or husband. So apparently to the police it doesn't matter if you're single or not, either way you're suspicious, and they see you as a victim, something these numbers prove.

Another interesting number the report mentions is the number of illegal prostitution. In 2012 there were still 41 reports of illegal prostitution, in 2013 this was 58 reports. This means the number of reported illegal prostitution has gone up with 41%.
That illegal prostitution is getting growing is not something that only this report shows. In fact, almost every report about prostitution shows this, and also many journalists have reported about this as well, like for instance Dit was de Dag from the EO did a while ago.
So there seems to be a trend of illegal prostitution growing, which does sound logical, since every year the number of legal workplaces for prostitutes are decreasing. Since 2008 in total 109 windows have been closed (23%) in Amsterdam, and only 401 remain today, with an additional 100 windows still scheduled for closure. Also on a national level we see the numbers of legal workplaces for prostitutes decreasing, with for example the closure of more then 100 windows in Utrecht last year. In fact, from the estimated 2000 windows since the regulation of prostitution, 665 windows have been closed until now, that's 33% of all legal prostitution windows. And still they wonder why illegal prostitution is growing?
What we've learned from illegal prostitution from the numbers of the previous campaign against human trafficking, is that illegal prostitution is for 61% responsible (read here) for human trafficking. Not weird, after all, illegal prostitution happens uncontrolled, without any protection, thus the chance for human trafficking is naturally higher then in a controlled and protected situation like legal prostitution.
So 'cleaning up' the Red Light District from crime didn't actually happen, in fact, there was never as much crime there as people claimed. And in stead of helping women, they've pushed many women out of legal prostitution, leaving them no other choice but to do it illegal, with as a consequence that now women can become easier victim of human trafficking then before.

On top of that the obligated registration at Chambers of Commerce, to register yourself as prostitute in stead of professional services, as was allowed before, also had a huge impact. The report mentions a decrease in legal registered prostitutes, which is a logical consequence, since registering yourself in a public record as a prostitute is violating a prostitute their privacy rights, and as the report also concludes, had an unwanted effect that put women more in danger then it helped them. This was also the reason the city government later reversed this decision, allowing prostitutes again to be registered under different definitions, so they didn't have to put themselves at risk.

The report also mentions so called 'agencies' which help girls setting up their companies and other registration papers, as well as finding a place to life for these girls. The report calls it an 'unwanted effect', yet does not suggest any solution to this problem. Point of course is, that neither the city government nor the national government supports prostitutes in any way of getting started over here, leaving it all up for themselves in a country where bureaucracy seems to have been invented.
Like I talked about before in this post here, the reason why many girls need help is because it's incredibly difficult to arrange everything (permits, place to life, setting up your own company, registration, finances) by yourself. These so called 'agencies' they talk about in this report are the very people that are trying to help us do things the government refuses to do. Of course the chance that some of these 'agencies' take advantage of you is very well present, since they're not legal, but in absence of a legal alternative many women often don't have much choice. Fortunately for most women this goes well, but in some cases it does not, and agencies exploit these women, to which they become victims of trafficking.
Like I talked about in this post before here, if the government wants to prevent/stop trafficking, they need to offer the girls a legal alternative to something that happens now by 'illegal' agencies. In stead they only choose to see these agencies as an unwanted thing, and don't offer any solution to a problem that is clearly present.

But there are more things this report recognizes as problems, yet offers no solution to in the conclusion. The report mentions the fact that many of us are living in apartments which charge high prices for rent, something they've also recognized to be rather common. They've also recognized the fact that often these apartments are occupied by more prostitutes then just one girl.
The reason this problem exists of course is because our vulnerable position. The city government, which has done nothing more then send out negative information to the general public about our profession, has turned us into unwanted people. People are afraid to rent us apartments (as I've written about here recently), because we have a bad name, largely due to false allegations by the city government that prostitution is a crime filled industry (or criminogeen as they called it).
On top of that prostitutes still can't get a business bank account, in fact we even have trouble getting a regular bank account. We can't get any loans from banks (as a start up for our own business for instance, or as an advance to our rent), nor can we get a mortgage.
All these things create the effect that we are extremely limited in our choices for housing, leaving only rental apartments for a high price as an option, if we can find one at all. Those who can't find an apartment (not an uncommon thing) often seeks refuge at the apartment of one of their colleagues, thus creating the effect that often girls live in over-priced houses together.

When it comes to 'normalizing' prostitution and 'empowerment' for prostitutes however, all measures seem to be aimed at only rescuing victims or helping girls exiting the industry. No empowerment is given to prostitutes who don't want to exit the industry or are not victims. This shows yet again that the city government only sees us as victims who'd rather quit this job, then independent entrepreneurs.
In stead of offering us options to safely enter our job, by setting up a legal agency for prostitutes who helps you with all the paperwork, finding a place to life, finances etc. they come with more rules and regulations, and top of top of that try to find ways to fight the people helping us.
In stead of giving us more rights so we can rent normal apartments, get bank accounts, loans and mortgages, so we don't have to depend on over-priced private sector apartments and 'illegal agencies', we get new rules on top of recently introduced rules like for instance the raise of the minimum age of 18 to 21 (even though no minor was found during any of the 2500 checks in window prostitution). New rules include for instance an obligated intake interview with our office, obligation to follow hygiene guidelines etc. All rules aimed at finding victims or making our jobs more complex, but none aimed at really empowering us.
Also empowerment seems only to imply that you quit this job or get shelter as a victim of trafficking, apparently empowering yourself as a prostitute can only mean for the city government that you quit as a prostitute. Yet, real empowerment, like forbidding agencies to refuse prostitutes as residents of an apartment, or forbidding banks to refuse prostitutes as customers, is not on the list.
Also preventing women enter prostitution seems to be rather the target, then actually helping them in achieving what they want, to become independent sex workers. No, the city government rather helps you to avoid prostitution all together, leaving us only one option, getting help from 'illegal agencies', with as a possibility that we become victims of human trafficking.

The report shows us a glimpse of things that are really happening at the moment. A city government claiming huge amounts of victims, while the report shows us the problem is by far not as large as they claim, and is even decreasing. On top of that it shows us how wrong their image is about the world of prostitution, since most of their reported victims end up not being a victim at all in 63% of the cases.
It also shows that closing down the windows to stop human trafficking hasn't worked, in fact, problems only seem to have moved into illegal prostitution, where it's much more difficult to detect, control and help. Further more it shows that the city government still doesn't recognize prostitutes as independent business owners, since empowering prostitutes only seems to revolve around aiding victims and helping prostitutes quit this job. On top of that we, yet again, get to deal with more rules and regulation, while the real problems the report mentions aren't tackled, by giving prostitutes more rights.

Dutch version
12 Responses
  1. Ivonn Says:

    I don't understand one thing:there are 900 sexworkers working behind a window, but you mentioned 4000 to 6000. Where are they working and are they checked?


  2. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Ivonn
    Prostitution in Amsterdam, but also Holland in general is much more the just window prostitution. Because although window prostitution is Amsterdam's most famous form, it's not it's only form.
    Besides the estimated 900 window prostitutes, Amsterdam also has escort and clubs where prostitutes are working. In total estimates say between 4000 and 6000 prostitutes are working in Amsterdam.
    This means window prostitution is responsible for somewhere between 22,5% and 15% of the total amount of prostitutes.

    The other prostitutes were checked as well, though not as much as the window prostitutes. Clubs were checked 79 times and escort 38 times. Now it may sound like clubs are getting checked way less then window prostitution, but keep in mind that each check from a club involves about a dozen women, that's why you can't speak about a total amount of prostitutes that got checked, since it depends on how many prostitutes were working in those clubs.
    If you estimate that each club may averagely have about 5 girls working, that would come down to about 395 checks. But there's no real way to tell, since this all depends on how many girls were working in all of the clubs that were checked.

    In total legal prostitution was checked 2652 times, and probably around 3000 prostitutes or more were checked.


  3. Ivonn Says:

    Thank you for your answer:). Only one more question: I'm not really fymilir with the regulation of sexwork in the Netherlands but it seems it's not legal to work in an apartment or in your own apartment. Am I right about it?


  4. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Ivonn Yes, it is legal to work from your own apartment if you have the right papers for it. Working from another apartment however is not legal, unless you get a permit to start a brothel, which hardly are given out these days.
    However, due to the strict regulations restricting our freedom, some girls chose to work from their own or other apartments illegal to avoid these regulations and taxes.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to write and post.


  6. Rootman Says:

    Somewhat off topic: In political discussions the very conformist attitude of the mainstream media is sometimes referred to as ´presstitudes´- (hoernalisten). Not a bad comparison, but this carries additional stigma.

    That´s why I want to share my comment on Joop.nl, in reaction on a comment that American military health workers in Liberia would likely visit local prostitutes and ´of course´ bring home AIDS, ebola and other nasties:

    ´Altijd respect voor de hoeren! zeker in de 3e wereld zijn deze vrouwen vaak de steunpilaar van hun hele grootfamilie. Wel voorzichtig zijn (condoom) en uiteraard respect tonen. Ondanks het stigma zijn de meeste hoeren betere mensen dan u en ik.

    (af en toe moet ik dit zeggen, vanwege zeer negatieve typeringen als ´hoernalisten´ en ´presstitudes´- een prima typering wat betreft de (om-)koopbaarheid van de mainstream media, maar als bij-effect een herbevestiging van het stigma tov. sexwerkers!).´


  7. Alex Says:

    Hello, I was wondering if I can get your opinion on something. Do you believe prostitution in Amsterdam will ever be made illegal. I hear that Canada has adopted the "Nordic Model" that criminalizes the buying of sex services but the selling of sex services remain legal. I just worry that Europe will eventually adopt similar laws because I hear more countries are considering criminalizing prostitution and adopting the "Nordic Model'.


  8. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Alex
    Good question. Some people are certainly trying very hard to accomplish this, although I do believe that the PVDA is not one of them. They however seem to be more interested in reducing prostitution, rather then making it completely illegal. They also realize that this city cannot survive without the income generated through tourism attracted to the Red Light District. That's also the reason why they haven't decided to completely close down everything, but nearly reduce it with 40%.


  9. Elias Says:

    Im not sure if my last question published, but do you think ALL OF EUROPE will eventually adopt the Nordic Model? I keep hearing that European Parliament is trying to pass a bill that supports it. This is what Alex was driving at but im just not wondering if all of Europe could adopt this model, not just Amsterdam.


  10. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Elias
    Actually that bill has already passed, but it's nothing more then an advice to European countries, and it's not a binding resolution.
    Besides that France has recently come back from the idea of using the Nordic Model, and also recently studies have surfaced that sheds a different light on the Nordic Model in Sweden itself.

    In short, no I don't think eventually they'll go for the Nordic Model. But like things usually go, first things have to get a lot worse before they get better.


  11. Seo Smart Says:

    Hi,

    I’m really impressed with your blog article, such great & useful knowledge you mentioned here

    Escort Amsterdam :- Escort Amsterdam DM Models offers high class escorts for hotel visits. Call now for great escort and massage service in Amsterdam, Hilversum and surroundings


  12. I read your blog step by step and I think your blog gives wonderful information about prostitutes in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Escorts Agency is a great place for lovely and erotic looking escort in Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Post a Comment

  • My photo

    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.