No more pictures in Amsterdam's Red Light District!
Today the newspapers reported that politicians in Amsterdam are finally going to do something about people taking pictures of sexworkers behind the windows. This already has been a big problem for a long time, and I've also wrote about this almost two years ago already, which with the coming of cellphones has grown completely out of proportions. It's probably one of the biggest complaints from sexworkers in the Red Light District, but one we can't do anything about. After all, we already have in each window a sticker saying it's not allowed to take pictures.

After coming across some disturbingly sharp, and close-up pictures of some of my colleagues online, of people who think they are photographers, and think they have the right to do that, PROUD took some action. PROUD dropped this problem at politician Ariella Verheul of D66 in Amsterdam, and last week she decided to do something with this in the city council. One of our ideas is to make it illegal under the local laws in the APV, which is also being used to put all kinds of other rules on prostitution. Simply make it illegal and fine people that take pictures, with a pretty high price tag on it to scare people to do it at all.

The mayor of Amsterdam said in the newspapers he knew about this problem. This makes you wonder why he never took action if he already knew about this and 'cares so much about us'. After all, the mayor came up with all kinds of bullshit regulation, which we never asked for and which just makes our lives more difficult, so if he knew about this already, why has he never done anything about it. But of course the mayor had to imply that supposedly trafficking was a bigger problem, by claiming 'there are bigger problems' than this. Indeed there are bigger problems than this, which are mainly being caused by the mayor himself, like for example a huge shortage of prostitution windows due to the many closures of window brothels. Or how about the fact that illegal prostitution (prostitution without a permit) is growing due to the fact that there are less legal working places thanks to those closures. In fact, illegal prostitution has almost doubled, going from 41 cases in 2012 to 79 cases in 2014.

I remember when we did the demonstration at city hall in April 2015 with more than 200 sexworkers, and how the mayor claimed to have done so much for us. Like what you say? Well, like being accepted by banks for example, which still isn't the case however. Like getting mortgages, which still isn't the case. Like accepting debet and credit card payments, which still isn't the case. Wait, what has he done for us again? He claimed to have done things for us which hadn't changed at all. Banks and financial services still refuse us, as I've also recently been reminded this of again. The only thing the mayor has done thusfar, has been closing more than 120 workplaces, making a shit load of bullshit regulations for our brothel owners about how they should run their business, violating our privacy with mandatory intake interviews and talking about how 'at least 400 women a day are being raped in prostitution', even though the city's officials statistics don't come any further than roughly 100 on about 6750 sexworkers in all of Amsterdam, meaning about 1,5%.

Yet the mayor said he's willing to do something about this, which is a good thing. Politician Jorrit Nuijens from GroenLinks says he believes more in a soft approach. He believes that putting a hand on someone's shoulder and asking them to stop making pictures will be a better approach. If things where that easy however this problem wouldn't exist anymore. These people know we don't like taking our pictures behind the windows, they've seen the stickers on our windows, but they choose to ignore those and still take pictures. So we've already tried the soft approach, but that doesn't work, which is why this problem exists in the first place. They simply don't give a fuck because there are no consequences.

A soft approach won't work. What would work is if police and city officials would actually get of their asses and do something, in stead of hanging around on the bridge all the time, watching people and doing nothing. Control isn't the problem, the problem is that they don't do anything about it. If police and city officials would actually walk around more, looking out for this problem, this would help way more than if they just sit on the bridge near the Old Sailor's pub doing basically nothing, like how I see them doing most of the time. Now it's more occasionally that they'll speak up to people not to take pictures, but that's more occasionally. Some police officers even claim it's allowed to take pictures, because we would be in a public place, even though I'm still not standing in the middle of the street, but in a room inside! So put in a zero tolerance policy towards taking pictures of us, and just write that fine, than people will stop making pictures.

I see police sometimes running after people because they have a beer outside in their hands, because according to the local regulations (APV), it's not allowed to drink outside. But sometimes they have people taking pictures right next to them, and they don't do anything about it. Just like with the zero tollerance on drinking alcohol outside, there should be a zero tollerance policy towards taking pictures of sexworkers. That's how simple and easy it is, but you do actually have to do it, and not sit on your ass or think that a soft approach will work, because we've already been there and done that.

Dutch version
1 Response
  1. Stefany Cek Says:

    There is however a connected problem: it keeps maintaining the idea of sex-worker as someone who has to be ashamed of being, of somebdoy who is out of the legal and moral society and therefore supports the facts that banks and other institution may "sensefully" want to emarginate them. I think, if we want sex work to be a culturally accepted job, we shan't treat it as something to be hidden.


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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.