More prostitution windows closing down?
Last week messages came from the media that 47 prostitution windows were going to close down in Amsterdam's Red Light District. According to the articles in the media, one brothel owner doesn't follow the new rules the city government set up at the beginning of this year, in the fight against human trafficking. The articles also mentions 3 human trafficking victims used to work behind these windows, and possibly 20 more victims are still behind the windows.

I find it a bit premature to speak of closing down windows. After all, the windows aren't closing for sure yet, and even if they do, they’ll make that decision in December final and not right now. I therefore also think it’s a bit strange the mayor comes out with this news right now, since he’s not immediately going to close down the windows, but he’s nearly threatening to not renew the temporary permit into a new final permit in December.

What’s really going on behind those windows I don’t know. I've never worked for that brothel owner, and don’t know many girls that work there. So I can’t say much about the rumors of human trafficking. All I can rely on are the facts as we know them already, and those facts point out that police often has suspicions of human trafficking that in most cases turn out to be false. This can be seen in the last report the city government made about human trafficking in Amsterdam (only 33% of their suspicions turned out to be an actual victim), which I explained here, but also in the article I wrote about the results of the last human trafficking campaign here (which points out 93% of the suspicions fails), and we also know the police themselves once made a report claiming that 50 to 90% of the girls would be victims, which has also never been proven yet, as you can read here.
In short, just because authorities claim to think there are still women working there that are victims, doesn't make it true. They're just suspicions, and the police has proven in the past not to be very accurate with these suspicions. 

But the reason for closing down these windows doesn't have so much to do with human trafficking itself, but rather with the brothel owner not following the new rules. After all, if the situation regarding human trafficking was really as bad as the articles make it sounds, the mayor at all times has every right to immediately close down windows purely based on suspicions, they don't even need real proof, as we've also learned from what happened last year in Utrecht.
All window owners right now work under a temporary permit until the end of the year. This gives the brothel owners time to adjust their company policies to the new rules the city government came up with to fight human trafficking. At the end of the year the city government will only give out a final permit to those window owners that successfully followed the new rules. And apparently this brothel owner isn't one of them, although the time to make that call hasn't even been finished yet, they still have time until December. This is also the reason I find it a bit premature to talk about closing down windows, nothing’s going to close for sure yet. The brothel owner could still decide to rapidly improve things, and follow the new rules. He could also fight the decision and go in appeal to this decision (although officially the decision hasn't been made yet, but will be made in December).

In short, this is nothing more than a warning from the mayor, and apparently he felt it was necessary to play this one out in public. What his motives are to play this game through the media, I don’t know. It could be another way of reminding the public of all the bad things happening here, as he claims, to get more support to close down more windows. It could also just be a way to put more pressure on the window owner to get things straightened out.

If the windows do close down however, this doesn't automatically mean there won’t be any prostitution windows though. Another owner could still buy the windows and use them as prostitution windows, although he would need a new permit for these windows. And seeing how difficult city governments can be to get a permit for window prostitution, for example in Utrecht where the city government keeps changing the rules to get a permit, I have some doubts they’ll ever get a permit for these windows.
After all, closing down more windows was already part of the city government their plan called project 1012. In these plans they've still got 100 windows scheduled for closure. These 47 windows would get the city government a lot closer to achieving their goal, so I doubt they’ll let that chance slip.

So, if the current owner won’t get a new permit, there’s a good chance there will be 47 prostitution windows less in Amsterdam, causing about 150 women (according to the newspapers) to lose their legal, safe and protected workplace. Adding these 47 windows, on the already 109 windows that have closed down in Amsterdam thus far, and the 1/3 closed down prostitution windows in the Netherlands itself, this leaves very little options for these women to find another place to work.

And although Yolanda van Doeveren, director of the prostitution program in Amsterdam denies it, many girls will enter illegal prostitution. Her argument during the last city center council meeting, that window prostitutes aren't moving into illegal prostitution ‘because they hardly see girls moving into illegal massage salons’, is laughable. It takes no scientist to find out that window prostitutes have no skills to work in a massage salon, legal or illegal, nor would they be interested in working for a boss like they would in a massage salon. More likely they’ll start doing illegal home prostitution or rent a place to work in somewhere else illegal.

Yolanda van Doeveren her claim restricts herself only to illegal massage salons for a reason. After all, she knows illegal prostitution is growing, as can be seen in the recent numbers of prostitution in almost every report. Their claim that they don’t know why this is happening, is just because they don’t want to admit that closing down windows is the cause of this, and that it was a bad idea in the first place. After all, if you close down more than 1/3 of all the legal places where women can work, don’t be surprised that it will continue illegal. These women still have bills to pay, and their mind is set on making a lot of money, so a career switch isn't an option for these women.

No, closing down windows only results in losses to almost everyone, except the city government and the real human traffickers and pimps. The brothel owners loose yet again dozens of windows, the women loose again dozens of legal workplaces were control and safety are key, but can anyone tell me what the bad guys their loss is? If the aim is to fight human trafficking, then how come the only one that doesn't get hurt by these measures are the human traffickers themselves?

No, the victims of this policy are not the human traffickers and the pimps. They get off the hook. The real victims of this policy from the city government are the prostitutes, the very people they’re pretending to protect are the biggest loser in all of this. The victims of trafficking will disappear off the grid, causing authorities to lose them out of sight, and not being able to give these victims any help. The free working women just lose their place to work, and are left without a legal workplace, while the bills are still coming in.

If the policies to close down windows are to fight human trafficking, they’re not just failing big time, they’re even making the situation for both victims and free working prostitutes much worse. And the worst part is, those pimps get off the hook again, so in no way is closing down the windows helping in the fight against human trafficking, in fact, it just makes things worse.

The only two ways I would see to prevent this from happening is if either the city government themselves take over the brothel. That way they’re responsible themselves for following the rules, and responsible for the girls. But they don’t want that. And the other option would be to let the girls themselves take over the brothel in a corporation. The city government already said they are working on setting up a corporation with prostitutes, so they become the brothel owners themselves, perhaps it’s time to prove this claim is true, and not just one of those lies they often tell.

If indeed the current brothel owner didn't follow the rules, I agree he shouldn't get a new permit. But if those windows aren't available to prostitution anymore, you’re creating more victims then there might have been if you would've left things alone. The only option to make sure the winners aren't the pimps and traffickers, is to let a corporation of prostitutes take over the brothel themselves. That way the bad are punished, and the good are rewarded. Although I doubt the city government is really interested in all of this. I think they’re just looking for an excuse to close down windows, and will use anything they can find, any slightest hint, as a reason to get to their goal: less prostitution no matter what.

They can try to disguise it as ‘saving women from sex trafficking’, but fact is that closing down prostitution windows only creates more victims instead of less. Give these windows to the women themselves in a corporation. That way they control prostitution, not the brothel owner, they are responsible for their own fate, and only that way the prostitutes will gain more independence and self empowerment.

The windows aren't closing just yet, but the threat is real. My fear is that the city government will yet again create more victims by repeating their mistakes of closing windows down. If you think about it it's really funny. It's the city government that does the most forcing in prostitution, in this case forcing women into illegal prostitution, where there's less protection, and more chance of becoming a victim of human trafficking. After all, how many pimps did the city government catch by closing down prostitution windows thus far?

Dutch version
1 Response

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.