How many girls are forced?
Update: All the rapports about forced prostitution are now together in my blog post here, for a complete overview so you can form your own opinion.

There are many people out there who think (and claim) that most prostitutes, are forced in the Amsterdam Red Light District. Most of them are politicians and people from the rescue industry, but since a lot of normal people hardly hear any different stories out there, they've also become convinced this is the truth. Often you'll hear them say percentages like 50, 75% or sometimes even 90% of the girls. Especially politicians and people from the rescue industry tell terrible stories about how women are raped, beaten, threatened every day to show to people how terrible it all is. Often they'll mention how many court cases there have been, and than they'll mention a couple of recent cases as an example.
This gives people the idea that on a daily base hundreds, or even thousands of women are being raped by naive clients in the Amsterdam Red Light Districts. But of course the real question is: Is this really true?

Most politicians and people from the rescue industry base their numbers on the famous rapport from the KLPD (National Police) called ' Schone Schijn' (Keeping up Appearances). This report is a research about human trafficking in the legalized prostitution. In this report it is mentioned that about 50 to 90% of the prostitutes could be victims of human trafficking. What they often forget to mention is the fact that these numbers are based upon people from the police their own personal estimations, and do not represent any solid numbers, and are not based upon any scientific research. In fact, for the research they only talked to 2 prostitutes, which all where victims of forced prostitution. Other than those 2 prostitutes, the only people interviewed where mainly people from the police (about 20 people!), government (34 people!) and a couple of people from the rescue industry. In other words, if you only talk with those people with bad experiences, than you shouldn't be surprised that the end result is a bad experience.
It's like doing a research on airplane safety (statically the safest way to travel), and only interviewing the clean up crew of airplane crashes and on top of that interview less than a hand full of actual passengers and pilots, of which all had been victims of an airplane crash. No wonder that a report of that would give the impression that flying is extremely dangerous!

Of course the KLPD report is not the only report out there. There are a few other reports that have been done. One of them is a survey from Scharlaken Koord, a Christian rescue organisation. They did a survey among 202(!) prostitutes, and the end conclusion was that only 8% of the prostitutes where victims.
This of course is a very big difference with the report that the police came up with, so in order to give some clarity about things another report was made. This report was called Kwetsbaar Beroep (Vulnerable Profession), and was done by a research agency. Basically what they did, is they looked at both of the previous reports, talked to a few people from the prostitution industry themselves (and only 8 prostitutes themselves), and based upon those people's opinion, together with the results of the previous two reports, came up with an estimation of somewhere between 30 and 40%. Not a very accurate number of course, especially since they again didn't do a survey and spoke to very few prostitutes, and again came up with just estimations, which doesn't say that much.

In 2010 another research was done among 94 prostitutes called De Amsterdamse Prostitutie Monitor. This report showed that 10% of the girls in the Amsterdam Red Light District are victims. This number comes close to the other research done bij Scharlaken Koord of 8%, and both are done by interviewing (a large number of) prostitutes themselves. While the other two reports Schone Schijn and Kwetsbaar Beroep, who did much less interviews, and based themselves much more on simple estimations, came up with numbers that are very far apart from each other and are also much higher than the reports that actually spoke to a lot of prostitutes themselves.
Looking back at these 4 reports, and the big difference between them, and how the research was done, I think it would be safe to say that the numbers of around 8 or 10% is much more accurate than estimations of 30-40% or even bigger 50-90%.

Looking at my own experience of working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam for more than 4 years, seeing and talking with my colleagues, I think indeed a number of between 8 and 10% is much more realistic than numbers of 30-40% or even higher 50-90%. I know that percentages of 50-90% aren't even possible, for the very simply fact that I know more than half the girls myself, and they are not forced. Also numbers of 30-40% seem highly unlikely in my eyes, since I think I know most of the girls working there in the night, and none of them are forced. The chance that I in 4 years time never met these girls from a group of 30-40% seems highly unlikely to me, especially since I know almost everyone working in the night there. This would mean that the only way 30-40% could be forced, is if most of them work in the day, but that doesn't fit in the stories people tell about forced prostitution. In those stories about forced prostitutes, girls are always forced to work long hours of 12 to 16 hours a day, so both day and night, to maximize the income for their pimp. That would mean that I would have had to have met them at some point in those 4 years time, but I never seen, heard or met any of them.
This leaves only one option, which is that about 8-10% of the girls are considered to be forced prostitutes, which sounds plausible. It's a small enough group for me to have missed in 4 years time, and it's also the only real numbers that are based upon facts rather than estimations of what people think.

But now there is a second problem between what many politicians and people from the rescue industry say and the reality. Because they are talking about forced prostitution, but use numbers that tell us how many prostitutes are victims of human trafficking. And the problem is, not every victim of human trafficking is a forced prostitute. There are basically three types of victims of human trafficking:

The real forced prostitute
This is the prostitute the politicians and the rescue industry always talk about. This is the girl that doesn't want to work as a prostitute, but is being forced by a pimp to work for him. This is the worst case of human trafficking. Often girls can be physically and mentally abused, raped and blackmailed. The pimps exploit the girls for money, and will therefore make them work as many hours and days as possible, to make the most money with them. Most of these cases happen in countries where prostitution is illegal, since it all happens underground, and out of sight of the police and other authorities, and nobody has control over it.
It can also happen in countries where prostitution is legal, but than mostly happens in places where it's out of sight for the police, like illegal prostitution. It has happened before in legal prostitution (case of Saban B.), and perhaps is still happening now, but since there's a lot of control of the police in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, it makes it very dangerous for the pimps to do it here. Therefore they'll often choose for the illegal prostitution, since the chance to get caught there is much smaller, because there is not control of the police over there.
These girls are victims of human trafficking, and will also see themselves as victims. Still, once the police catches the pimps, they only have to go to jail for a few years, which in my eyes is terrible because they destroyed the lives of these girls.

The exploited prostitutes
These are the prostitutes that are not forced into prostitution, but choose it for themselves. To get started in prostitution, they need help from someone (like I explained in my second blog post here), to help them get into the country, set up their own company, get a place to live etc. The person helping them invests money in them, since he/she pays for everything and puts a lot of time into helping the prostitute. The deal is made to pay that person the money back (perhaps with a commission for all the work and time), but once they're here that person changes the deal and asks for more money. Basically it's a scam, like how you get promised a nice vacation from a website, but once you get on location it turns out that it doesn't look like how it was shown on the website.
The prostitute sometimes manages to escape from this person, but sometimes also it happens that it ends up in a court case (an example here and here). Often the girls afterwards continue working in prostitution, even after a court case, since that's what she came here for by her own free will.
These women do not consider themselves to be forced prostitutes, since nobody forced them into prostitution, they actually wanted to do this job. Still the media, politicians and people from the rescue industry, and sometimes even the judge will still claim this as forced prostitution. Of course it's very sad what's happened to these girls, and these people should go to jail for it, but they should not be treated as a victim of forced prostitution, as they are often treated now.

The free trafficked prostitutes
These are the prostitutes that are not forced into prostitution, and also choose it for themselves. Also they need help to get started in prostitution, and therefore get help from someone else. The person helps these prostitutes the same way as the exploited prostitutes get helped, with the only difference being that the person helping them doesn't change the deal afterwards. This means the girl doesn't get forced, and doesn't get exploited, and basically nothing wrong happens, she simply gets help from that person. So you think nothing wrong is happening here. The girl got what she wanted, she wasn't harmed, forced, exploited, scammed or anything. Still by law this is considered to be illegal, since according to the human trafficking law 273F 1.3, everyone helping a person to travel from one country to another, knowing that person will become a prostitute, even though this person agrees with it, is considered to be human trafficking.
This is what is wrong with the law. For every job in the world, it's perfectly legal to recruit and help another person to get a job in another country, but the only job where this is illegal is in prostitution. Why is it illegal to help someone into prostitution, even if that person wants it herself? Is it perhaps because the politicians that made this rule are against prostitution itself, and therefore want to prevent anyone from doing it? Or is it perhaps because the politicians think that nobody wants to do this job out of their own free will? In my opinion this rule only exists to make it impossible for girls to start to work as a prostitute. This is really weird, since prostitution is considered by law to be a profession, and even politicians say that this profession needs to become more independent. But how can you become more independent if you don't get any help from the government? The government doesn't help girls to become a prostitute, and that's why the girls look for help from other people.
These girls are not forced prostitutes, they're not being exploited, they don't consider themselves to be exploited or forced and also shouldn't be treated as a victim. Still the law sees these girls as victims, and also the police, rescue organisations and politicians. These girls are also counted as victims of human trafficking, and sometimes even see the person helping them going to jail for it. What's wrong with this country?!

So as you can see, not every victim of human trafficking is a forced prostitute. In fact, the 8-10% of human trafficking that get mentioned in the reports, are not just real forced prostitutes but also exploited prostitutes and free trafficked girls, since they are also victims of human trafficking by law. This means that the number of girls that are really forced into this job against their will, must be lower than at least 8-10%, since the other two group of girls are also counted in these reports as victims. On a total of the 700-1100 prostitutes that work in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, this would come down to about 50 to 90 girls in total, and not the hundreds or thousands of girls some people suggest.
I have no idea how many real forced prostitutes there are, since reports only talk about human trafficking, which is much bigger than just forced prostitution. One thing I can tell, is that it must be at least smaller than the 8-10% the reports show, since they include not only forced prostitutes, but also girls the are not forced. This also matched with my 4 years experience of working as a prostitute in the Red Light District.

The claim that politicians and people from the rescue industry make, that 50% or more of the prostitutes in the Red Light District in Amsterdam are raped on a daily base, because they are forced by a pimp to prostitute themselves, is simply false. First of all the number is way too high, and secondly they use numbers of human trafficking, which includes more kind of groups than just the forced girls. In my opinion the only reason they are telling this story, is to close the windows in the Red Light District. This means taking away workplaces of girls (of which 90% is working not forced!), leaving them no other option but to move somewhere else, or to start to work in the illegal prostitution, where it's much more dangerous and much more forced prostitution is happening than in the Red Light District in Amsterdam where it's legal and protected. So, in fact, the only thing politicians and the rescue industry is doing, is forcing women into forced prostitution, in stead of  'saving us' from it, like they always claim.

The best advice I can give the girls to stay out of trouble in the prostitution industry, is to never trust any guy who comes over to you with a nice talk about how beautiful you are. Never do something you don't want to do, even if people will hate you for it (like people will hate me for writing this blog).
And my advice would be to the politicians and opinion makers out there, to listen to the prostitutes and work together with them. The prostitutes have more experience in this industry, and a better knowledge about it, than any rescue organisation could ever offer. And the government should start to think about creating a safe way for prostitutes to start this job, to prevent people from exploiting the girls who want to do this job. Preventing things before they happen are better than fighting the problems that happen afterwards.

Update 11-05-2014 18:48: I reviewed the report Schone Schijn again, and came to the conclusion that 2 victims where interviewed for the report (correspondents 56 and 62), and not 4 like I've written before in this blog post. Therefore I updated the numbers in this post.

Dutch version


9 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    "And my advice would be to the politicians and opinion makers out there, to listen to the prostitutes and work together with them."

    It depends on what goals these politicians and opinion makers have. Maybe it serves them to make it seem as if almost all these women are forced into prostitution. If reduction of prostitution is their goal, they will not care about opinions - and they certainly do not want to hear succes stories.

    You are doing great work. Eventually more people will listen.


  2. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Anonymous May 2, 2014 at 8:26 PM
    I don't know what their true goals are, and if these goals are the goals of every politician. But indeed, right now they don't seem to be very interested in hearing the good side of things.

    Thank you for the compliment.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Nice, clear analysis. Obviously, the critical point is the suggestion that maybe 10% of prostitutes are forced. That's a high figure, considering that on a Saturday night (for example) there are probably only 120 -140 women working in De Wallen. So, I'm going to suggest that 10% might represent 'about 12 women have been identified over time'. From your analysis and what I know of the area 10% at any one time (implied) seems very, very high. And because the area is so small and the window population so stable, there should be no room for ambiguity. The authorities have ample time and opportunity to 'investigate' the circumstances of every worker (many of whom have been there for years). As for women who are forced into working across shifts, the number of women who do that is very, very small. Again, if the authorities really thought that those women were being coerced (and my interviews with them would suggest otherwise) they could easily investigate that. But the authorities/politicians have a vested interest in keeping it vague and manufacturing figures. If they ever got to the truth their arguments would be wrecked. Keep going Felicia Anna. This is good stuff.


  4. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Anonymous May 3, 2014 at 5:29 AM
    I have to base the analysis on the figures that are out there, I didn't make the reports, or the numbers, and that's what I have to work with. Until new reports come out that specify better which victims of human trafficking are actually being forced, versus which are being exploited and which are free trafficked girls, I think the statement I made that it must be at least smaller than 10% is the only conclusion I can make with the numbers that are available.

    Indeed I think 10% of forced prostitutes would be very high indeed. But let's not forget that within that 10% are also included the exploited girls (which aren't forced) and the free trafficked girls (which aren't forced either).
    If you would devide them equally within the 10%, so 1/3 forced, 1/3 exploited and 1/3 free trafficked, you would come down to about 3% forced prostitutes. But the problem is, nobody knows how many of the human trafficked girls are really forced prostitutes, since they don't get specified.
    In my opinion there are much less than 10%, but I don't have any prove for that, and I have to work with the numbers that are available to us. If I write that it's only 1% for instance, I have no prove for that to claim this.
    But I hope really soon someone will make a report that can specify this for us, which are based upon actual interviews with a large number of prostitutes, and not based upon opinions and estimations.

    But thank you for the compliment.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    I was under the impression that the 8-10 % was the figure of the number of prostitutes who had experienced EVEN THE SLIGHTEST AMOUNT of force during ANY time in their career.

    Which makes the 1 % figure very plausible, as girls do grow up....

    Respect, Rootman


  6. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Rootman
    Indeed, that's also true. But with even the slightest amount of force, they mean exploited girls with that group. But also girls that just get help, which aren't forced or exploited, are also counted within that 8-10%. So, even I in their eyes are a victim of human trafficking, and belong to that 10%. Because the police also has a report of me, which claims that I'm a victim of human trafficking. Ridiculous of course, but that's why we need to change that law.


  7. Anonymous Says:

    Your response to my post 'Nice, clear analysis' simply boosts your credentials. The fact that you are trying to work within the published figures is commendable. And your further analysis in the context of my comment is really valuable. So I'm glad that I made the point. I think that we can assume that when a girl has been forced and she has come to the attention of the authorities we would hear about it. A lot. And we don't. If, in a window population of 140 on a Saturday night, 14 (10%) were 'forced' into prostitution we should be seeing the results of investigations - and we are not. Are the police really that inept?


  8. Anonymous Says:

    Good comment, rootman.


  9. Anonymous Says:

    @Felicia Anna
    I have been going to red light ladies like yourself for 20 years. I always treat them with respect and in that time have got to know many. Before I read your blog it was already obvious to me that the talk about forced prostitution was hugely exaggerated and often quite frankly lies. In my visits I do not believe that I have ever visited one that was truly forced. I don't just have sex with these girls, I like to chat about everyday things. Often they will share photos and long stories about what they did the night before or where they went on holiday. They are very obviously not terrified abused women.
    I don't visit girls on Molensteeg because they look dirty and I hear they take risks with things like BBBJ. So I cannot make a judgement on every girl in the RLD. I suspect the number overall though is certainly 1% or lower.


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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.