Illegal prostitution or human trafficking?
So today there was something on the TV in Amsterdam at channel AT5 about the Red Light District. The show 'De Stelling van Amsterdam', was started with a statement on the website of AT5, which posed the question: "Visitors of the Red Light District should be warned for illegal prostitution".
They also send out a Tweet with that statement, and in response to that both my boyfriend and I tweeted some things about the illogical reasoning behind such a statement. After all, why would you warn people in an area with legal prostitution, about illegal prostitution? In an attempt to keep visitors coming back to the Red Light District and not to places where prostitution is not legal? If you want to warn people about illegal prostitution you should warn people at places where this is happening, not in a place where all prostitution is happening legal, like the Red Light District.
Once the TV show started however quickly things became clear. All of the sudden the statement was: "Visitors of the Red Light District should be warned about forced prostitution." And that's a very different statement, because of course illegal prostitution and forced prostitution are two completely different things. But apparently Amsterdam's own TV channel isn't even aware of this, and to make things even worse, they used a tweet of mine and my boyfriend and host of the show Waldy van Geenen claimed that 'these people still don't know about forced prostitution', and that therefore it was perhaps a good idea to warn visitors in the Red Light District about this. What the fuck? Yeah, like we wouldn't be aware of that! I think I know a little bit more about my own job and my own workplace than AT5 does!

The problem is of course that apparently AT5 doesn't even know the difference between illegal prostitution and legal prostitution, which kind of shows their ignorance about this subject. Yet, they want to have a debate about it, even though they don't even know basic things about prostitution, such as the difference between illegal prostitution and forced prostitution. So here's a lesson for dummies (read AT5) about the difference between illegal prostitution and forced prostitution.

Illegal prostitution
Illegal prostitution is prostitution happening without a permit, in places where it is required to have a permit. This is why it's called illegal prostitution, because prostitution that happens in places where it's not allowed is illegal. For example: prostitution in a hotel that does not have a permit for this. This is for example the case in a hotel in Utrecht, as a result of the fact that over 300 prostitutes lost their only legal workplace there.
Illegal prostitution is prostitution that is not allowed. It says nothing about the fact whether or not forced prostitution or exploitation is happening there. For example, there are many prostitutes that work in illegal prostitution without any problems. But, since it's illegal and therefore happening out of sight of the police, the chances that human trafficking is happening there, are a bit higher than in legal prostitution.
A good example of legal prostitution is the Red Light District. All prostitutes who work in the Red Light District work in legal prostitution. Even if they are forced or exploited, any victim of human trafficking in the Red Light District is still working in legal prostitution, even though they are a victim of something that is illegal.

Forced prostitution
Forced prostitution means someone is doing forced labor in the prostitution industry, nothing else nothing more. Obviously you can't call 'forced by economic circumstances' forced prostitution, for two very simple reasons:
1. Almost everyone is forced to work by economic circumstances, after all, we live in a capitalistic system. Without work you simply can't survive since everyone needs money to survive, and therefore by default everyone is forced to work by economic circumstances.
2. Forced prostitution is about being forced by another person, and since the economy is not a person, you can't call that forced prostitution. Forced by economic circumstances is also not punishable, since you can't punish the economy for forcing someone to work, this is simply called capitalism.

The mistake people, and also AT5 make, is to think that because forced prostitution is illegal, that this is called illegal prostitution. A laughable mistake for any TV channel to make, certainly one that wants to have a debate about prostitution itself!
Just because some crime might be happening in prostitution which is illegal, doesn't make the place where it happens illegal. The Red Light District in Amsterdam, every single window brothel and club has a permit, and is therefore legal prostitution. Therefore illegal prostitution doesn't happen here. But that doesn't mean of course that forced prostitution can't happen there.

I'm angry at the fact that AT5 used the Tweets of myself and my boyfriend to 'prove' that people would still be unaware of the fact the forced prostitution is happening. That's bullshit! Almost everyone knows this! You'd have to have lived in a cave for 50 years not to know about this. And by the way AT5, I am one of those ladies that complained to Mariska Majoor (who was in the show), about the fact that so many people come to ask us if 'I am really doing this job for myself or if I am perhaps forced by a pimp'.
In fact, like Mariska also explained, most people think we are all (or most of us) forced. The 'romantic image' people have about the Red Light District hasn't existed since the 90's anymore. People who claim these things, that there would still be people out there that have a 'romantic image about the Red Light District', are always people who are against prostitution. Everyone that works and knows even a little bit about prostitution, knows that such an image hasn't existed for years anymore. If ever there were people that believed that, that image was shattered when the case of Saban B. came out.
On an international level the image of the Red Light District has been shattered by so called 'rescue organisations' like for example Stop The Traffik and their stupid prostitution dance video, that misinform people on a grand scale about the size of human trafficking over here.

And now to answer the question about informing visitors about forced prostitution in the Red Light District. Is this really necessary? There is already a lot for the missery in prostitution. And do we warn people standing in a bank that sometimes banks get robbed? Do we warn people in the H&M and Primark that their clothes were made under forced labor and sometimes even by 12 year old kids? No!
Not every prostitute is forced. In fact, in the 5 years time working behind the windows myself, knowing most of the girls that work there in the night, I've never came across a single girl that was forced. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but it does prove that the chance of running into to one for a client is pretty small.
And yes, it's possible that clients might run into a girl that's forced. But than again, isn't it the police their job to look out for this, in stead of the clients? After all, the police walks all day long there, and clients only come once in a while at most. If a client comes across a girl that is forced than he should report it, absolutely. But I don't think scaring clients away with the idea that 'girls are forced behind the windows' is fair for all those girls I know that work there because they want to make money.
What's next? Going to demonstrate and flyer people about the fact that banks use people their money for fraud? Are we going to flyer at the C&A that some clothes are made by forced and child labor? Are we going inside the Jumbo to flyer that their bananas come from a country which sells bananas under the price that the government established, and therefore their bananas are illegal?

I went to demonstrate last weekend with Mariska Majoor and some other people of PROUD against the action of the ChristianUnie youth department to warn clients about 'forced prostitution'. They're only scaring clients away, with no results. After all, if clients stay away, there is nobody to report these things. And since the police is apparently not doing their job very good, who else is there to report these things? The girls themselves? Yeah, if only they could do it without the police throwing up barriers for victims to press charges.
Maybe I should go an demonstrate against Christians their constant attempts to undermine my work in a church, see how they like it. Or I'll flyer that 'The Vatican are a bunch of pedophiles', see how they like that? After all, I'm only informing them, right?
Maybe you should first ask the people that work there if you can do these kind of things in the area where they work. After all, did we ever asked people to demonstrate and flyer for us?

Update 2-2-2015 20:36: After I reported this to Waldy van Geenen they took out the video online to be uploaded without the tweets of me and my boyfriend at a later time. This post however remains the same, as it shows how uninformed people can create a false image about something without even knowing it, simply out of ignorance. Furthermore I think it's important to explain the difference between illegal prostitution and forced prostitution.

Dutch version
6 Responses
  1. Cliente X Says:

    OMG how naive u are! U haven't seen a single prostitute forced in years, altough u claim to be a prostitute and that ur friends are prostitutes too! How many sex workers had u met? Hundrends.

    But u still believe in those who claim that almost every prostitute is forced even when they ignore everything of this reality.

    WAKE UP FELICIA! All those who claim that are fighting forced PROSTITUTION, venereal diseases in PROSTITUTION or pimps and procurers in PROSTITUTION are really fighting PROSTITUTION ITSELF! It's just a justification! They HATE prostitution! They hate u and all prostitutes! It's the WAR ON WHORES!

    Do u think that anyone who desires to help prostitutes is not even able to hear them? They are not interested in knowing anything about real prostitution bcause no matter if prostitution is legal or illegal, voluntary or forced, problematic or not. THEY THINK U ARE DIRTY WHORES and u aren't still aware of this simple fact!


  2. jcm manuel Says:

    Hmm, the one who posted the "OMG how naive u are" comment is probably a big fan of those politicians who want to eradicate all prostitution - so we have a 'perfect' society (read: a society consisting of Barbie puppets). Or maybe it's a Republican (or Tea Party) thing, or otherwise pseudo-Christian - considering prostitution typically the worst of all sins.

    Of course, abuse and modern slavery does exist. But the silly games in politics and evangelicalism today should also be met with a lot of skepticism and resistance. Clearly women today CAN decide for themselves. If they accept a client - not like in porn (where both are payed) but as in prostitution (including Escorts - which is essentially prostitution too), the women can still be the one who decides what she wants and what she does not want.

    However, in order to support women's right be in control (have authority over what they want and what not), we must stop undermining it by continuing to minimize the vision that a women can be in control. Assuming that women are always just going to be 'abused' one way or another IS ASKING for such abuse. People who talk like this obviously have not done any long-term thinking - or maybe they are just not interested in having women in prostitution being respected and protected. (In case of religious people, in many cases they already cannot respect a women in this kind of job - so the bias is there right from the start).


  3. jcm manuel Says:

    This is a good blog by the way. You seem to make a beautiful, well developed and properly linked site out of this. A good idea - information is often very widespread across the web, and it is becumming (<-pardon the pun) attractive again to have a site or blog where one can roam around a bit, grabbing various bits of information about a central theme. I like this blog, it's beautiful to the eye, and you clearly think a lot about what you're going to publish.


  4. Cliente X Says:

    Jcm Manuel, as u can see enemies of prostitution come both from the right wind and left wind parties. In fact, sex workers rights activist Pye Jackobsen has told that prostitutes have no friends in the left. In many countries, socialists, socialdemocrat and communist parties are as hostile towards prostitution as the religious, conservative ones (or even more).

    This is because it's not an ideological reason. It's an economic one. And until u don't realise about it, u'll not be able to understand anything.

    This is why call naive to those who are still stuck telling that the official version about forced prostitution it's not true. Those who are against prostitution alreadu know it. We must explain whats the reason they have to lie. Whats behind the "trafficking myth", as Laura Agustin calls it. There are of course pimps, exploitation and slavery. But not in the way we usually hear...


  5. Ania Rose Says:

    Dear Client X:
    When you're writing a blog comment, please slow down, stay calm, & take a little more time to make sure you're communicating clearly. I ask you to do this because your comments are always very hard to understand, & you end up communicating the opposite of what you meant to say. You frequently come across as anti prostitution, for instance, while other comments of yours seem more supportive of sex work. People who probably agree with you end up arguing with you, because your comments are often rushed, messy, & unclear. If you just took an extra minute or 2 to proof-read before you post, you might change more people's minds.


  6. Cliente X Says:

    Dear Ania Rose, I'm not for or against sex work. I just want to understand this reality and then give the most objective image of it. Thats's all. This is why sometimes I seem an abolitist, as they are right in my opinion in many aspects (for example, I agree with them in that prostitution means trafficking almost always, accordingly to THEIR definition of trafficking, that they have imposed in legal documents), But also I'm for the sex workers rights as I see that cuestion as an issue of common sense. But then I come to explain why, in reality, a full legalization in a decriminalization way its not possible bcause mainly for economic reasons: not just sex workers are affected by such legislation, but also the public administrations. And governments are VERY INTERESTED in keeping prostitution criminalized in one or another way.

    Last, excuse my english but it's not my main language and I'm not used to it. If u tell me which aspects u see unclear, maybe I could clarifly them a little more.

    Thank u.


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    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.