Less legal workplaces equals more human trafficking
A map of which windows are closing down in Amsterdam
With a new plan to open up a city brothel in Amsterdam people seem to think the city of Amsterdam has gone into a new direction with it's prostitution policy. For years the city of Amsterdam have been closing down windows with as an excuse to fight forced prostitution and human trafficking, while in reality it was nothing more than a simple way to make money with the real estate of these buildings. So far 117 windows have been closed down of the once 512 windows that used to be available in Amsterdam, leaving only 395 windows.

Some people seem to think that since the city of Amsterdam is now offering 19 windows to sex workers to run their own brothel, that the closures of windows have stopped. But that's not the case at all. In fact, all the decisions have been made already, financially everything is ready, legally every bump in the road has been taken out of the way, there's nothing stopping Project 1012 anymore from closing the remaining 94 windows as scheduled.
Sure, getting back 19 windows is nice, but closing down almost 100 more doesn't add up to that. Those new city brothels are nothing more than a way of giving Project 1012 a more friendlier face, and to encapsulate the sex workers that have always criticized the closure of windows. After all, if the city gives sex workers 19 windows, they can never claim anymore that they weren't listened to, thus silencing them and getting rid of the last obstacle before closing down the 94 windows that are still scheduled to close down.

According to the city, closing down windows will lead to less human trafficking. In their logic, if there is less prostitution, there's also less chance of human trafficking. But fact is of course that there isn't any less prostitution because of this plan, there are just less workplaces, not less prostitutes. And that's exactly the mistake the city made.
Because where will all those women now go, when they have no more legal workplace to work in? Project 1012 will cost 500 women their only legal and safe workplaces. And unlike other businesses, prostitutes can't just start their business everywhere, they need to work in a building where prostitution is allowed, plus they need a license for that. And the problem is that in reality hardly ever the government gives out licenses for prostitution, making it impossible for sex workers or other business owners to start a new brothel.

Fact is that 500 women will loose their place to work because of Project 1012. But since they don't have any other legal alternatives, since hardly ever permits are given out for new brothels, while at the other hand the city does close down a large part of the existing brothels, this forces prostitutes into two directions.
The first one is the most obvious one, which is illegal prostitution. After all, if you can't do it legal, because the government takes away that opportunity without replacing it with an alternative, this won't stop prostitutes from trying to make money the way they know how to make money. So their work continues, only this time they do it in buildings and houses that don't have a permit for it, making it illegal prostitution. It's not by chance that illegal prostitution has grown immensely over the past few years. With the rise of the internet it's becoming easier to connect with the clients, and with less and less legal workplaces in Holland (in window prostitution alone 673 workplaces have been closed down 1/3 of the amount 15 years ago), it has become a logical step for many girls that have lost their place to work.

Working illegal does however create one problem. Girls that used to work in a legal brothel are used to the protection, either from the security guys of a brothel, or from the police like the window prostitutes get. And since you don't want to notify the police that you're working somewhere where it's illegal, you need to find some other form of protection.
And this is where things become more dangerous again. Because the whole idea of the legalization back in 2000 was that (indeed) prostitution will continue no matter what, but the best way to protect them is to keep them in sight and protect them that way. But when you're working in illegal prostitution all those things aren't there, which creates a demand for security, and this is where pimps come in to play again. Now some of those pimps just do what they should do, and offer protection and get paid for it, there's nothing wrong with that. But if you have bad luck you run into a pimp that wants to exploit you, and you become a victim of human trafficking, and eventually you might end up being forced to work, which was exactly the thing they wanted to stop!

And than you have the second alternative, which is to go to another country where prostitution is still legal. Many girls that leave Amsterdam go to Germany, Austria or Belgium, but again the same problems arise as when they first came to Amsterdam: trafficking.
Because now they need to move again to another country, and the same problems that apply to moving to Amsterdam, apply to moving to any other country as well: you need help! And since the person helping a prostitute with the migration is by law called a human trafficker, it has become impossible to migrate to another country without becoming a victim.
Most girls fortunately already know a friend that works in another country, who helps them with their migration, so technically almost every prostitute is both a victim and a perpetrator in this case, but than again, who isn't? But some girls won't be fortunate enough to know a girl in another country, and the only way she can get to another country, is with the help of pimps who want to exploit her.
Congratulations, we have yet again achieved more human trafficking this way!

It is ironic that a plan that was sold as a plan to reduce human trafficking, actually creates more human trafficking than it solves. Although you might wonder if closing down windows helps victims at all. After all, just because they won't have a legal place to work anymore, won't mean their pimp won't force them to work as a prostitute anymore. After all, I don't think pimps would back out of it simply because it's now illegal, what they're doing is already illegal, which is kind of the point of being a criminal.
So girls that are already victims of human trafficking, that are being forced and/or exploited, won't get saved by closing down legal workplaces. In fact, they'll only end up in a more shady place, without the protection of the police, out of sight for the authorities, and unable to reach for help.
And the girls that aren't victims, well, their risk of becoming a victim has only been increased by taking away their only place to work legal. After all, if they move into illegal prostitution they have more chance of becoming a victim because there's no police protection, and girls moving to other countries to work in prostitution over there yet again have the risk of becoming victims of trafficking due to their need to receive help with their migration.

No, Amsterdam's Project 1012 doesn't create less human trafficking, it only increases the chance to become victims, while the ones that are already victims aren't helped with this. So we're risking the lives of 500 women for some real estate, and Amsterdam isn't the only one. After all, thus far 673 windows have been closed down in Holland since the brothel ban was lifted 15 years ago, of the 2000 windows Holland once used to have. This means roughly 1800 women have lost their place to work thus far. Holland once had place for about 5300 window prostitutes, right now there's only place left for 3500 of them.
Where those 1800 women are that have lost their workplace, nobody knows and nobody seems to care about. After all, what you can't see, you don't have to worry about. One thing we do know, illegal prostitution has grown over the last decade. Politicians claim this has nothing to do with the fact that windows are closing down, I beg the differ. After all, without the option to open up a legal workplace yourself, or together with other sex workers or for other business owners for that matter, it leaves them little to no choice but to continue their work either abroad or illegal in this country, with both increasing the chances of becoming victims of forced prostitution and exploitation.

Thus far 1800 women have become the victim of greedy Dutch cities, which value more real estate than women their lives. Selling their real estate projects under the name of 'fighting human trafficking', while actually increasing the risk of human trafficking, it has become clear that the situation hasn't improved. And how could it? After all, which worker benefits from having their only legal workplace being taken away? Who's safety is being improved by not being able to work legal anymore? Which victims can be saved by simply closing your eyes to them, and shoving them onto the streets, while pretending to fight it?
And those 1800 women, are only the window prostitutes. In total Holland has closed 1/3 of all the legal workplace for sex workers in this country since it's legalization. Clubs, escort agencies, windows, brothels. In total 1/3 of those workplaces have been closed down, almost every single one of them under the name of 'fighting forced prostitution'.

They estimate that there are 20.000 prostitutes in Holland working legal. That estimation has been around already since the legalization itself back in 2000. Imagine that 1/3 of those women, more than 6500 women have lost their place to work, and have been forced to either move abroad with a chance of some pimp taking advantage of their vulnerable position, or moved into illegal prostitution where they again could become the victim of a pimp forcing and/or exploiting them.
Have those 6500 women their situation been improved, because people claim the ridiculous idea that taking away safe and legal workplaces are better for the workers? But sure, Amsterdam keeps continuing to take away more legal workplaces, as well as Groningen I've heard recently. In 20 more years there won't be a legal workplace left anymore, and we'll be right back where we started 20 years ago. Women working illegal in prostitution. Not because they wanted to, but because the government is more interested in money than in the safety of a vulnerable group of women.

But, I won't stop complaining without coming up with a solution to this problem. Word has reached my ears that some people thought I was too negative. A funny thing actually, I think if I would write down all the shit that really goes on behind the scenes, with all the problems being caused by the governments and cities, you'd actually say I'm being fairly optimistic about things, but whatever.
Because the real problem is of course that we did legalize brothels, and we made a rule that they need a permit, but it's impossible to get a permit. And of course that made it easy for cities to get rid of prostitution in their city, since all they had to do was take away their permits, and they can shut down prostitution (or at least the legal part of it). In short, the brothel ban was never lifted, it simply became a way of closing them down using the law.

So what would need to happen for the future are two things. First of all it should be made easier for prostitution companies to get a permit. After all, they claim we're a normal industry because we're legal and we pay taxes, so let them prove it by treating us like a normal industry, and let us open up new companies in stead of only allowing the existing companies (which they eventually shut down using the law and excuses).
Secondly, in Amsterdam there's a maximum amount of buildings that we're allowed to have prostitution. A weird thing, since would you put a maximum amount on how many Pizzeria's can open up? I don't think so. The idea was to contain the prostitution in areas where they allowed it. What I would suggest is a minimum amount of workplaces. The government should uphold a minimum amount of workplaces that are required to allow the sex workers to continue to do their job in a legal and safe manner. This means that no matter what, the cities are always required to keep a minimum amount of workplaces available. If they want to close down a brothel because the owner wasn't running his brothel in a good way, fine, close it down. But at least make sure there's an alternative for those sex workers who where victims of those brothel owners as well, and let them continue their work somewhere else. Than you're protecting the interests of sex workers, and not brothel owners as they do now.

But for now the situation is grim. People are happy 19 windows could possibly open in Amsterdam. Yes, that's good, if it ever comes that far. But we've seen how those things have worked out before in Utrecht for example. Also there they promised new workplaces as a replacement for the old ones two years ago. Until today not a single workplace has opened up there. Also Amsterdam's plan to open up 19 new windows only seems to be nothing more than something to keep our minds of the fact that they've closed down already 117 windows, and they still will close down 94 more,
Less legal workplaces don't equal less human trafficking, in fact, it only creates more human trafficking, forces women into illegal prostitution and abroad, and does not safe a single victim. In total 1800 women have already become a victim of this, stop making more victims!

P.s. With a thank you to the people from hookers.nl for their information and wonderful maps of prostitution areas in Amsterdam.

Dutch version
1 Response
  1. Cliente X Says:

    Felicia, what do u think about the New Zealand approach towards prostitution? Do y think that a decriminalization is convenient and feasible in the netherlands?


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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.