Exit programs
A while back the Dutch minister of Justice implemented another 3 million euro anally into exit programs for prostitutes. The idea is of course to help prostitutes who want to exit the program. Question is of course, do prostitutes really want to exit? And if so, do they need help, and what kind of help would be required? Or is an exit program just another way to discourage prostitution?

Let's start off with some facts. Between 2011 and 2013 in total 1750 prostitutes have been a part of the program. This comes down to about 583 prostitutes each year. This is only a very small portion compared to all the prostitutes working in Holland (an estimated 20.000), so it doesn't really look like they're really interested in using these programs in the first place.
Why does only such a small portion of the prostitutes want to use this program? Well, perhaps they don't want to quit. Or maybe some do want to quit, but they don't need anyone's help to do so. Or maybe many don't believe these programs are very helpful.

The current exit programs have a success rate of about 57%, meaning 57% of the prostitutes actually quit their job using these programs if they enter it. This leaves 43% of the prostitutes leaving the programs before they ever exit the industry. This also means that only about 332 prostitutes each year actually quit using these programs.
One might begin to wonder why such a relatively large group of more than 40% chooses to keep working this industry and quits these programs, as opposed to actually continuing the project and getting another job.

What they also didn't count in were how many went back into the job after exiting. Because I know from girls I personally know, that re-entering this job after having quit happens more than most people might think. And the main reason is that other jobs simply don't pay that well like this job does. For example, I knew a girl that used one of these exit programs and ended up working in a restaurant. After about a year working in this restaurant she decided to go back into prostitution. Her reason? It simply paid much better than working in a restaurant.

Girls that start doing this job, most of the times do it for one very simple reason: money. There is no other job on this earth which requires so little skills, schooling and knowledge or experience, yet pays so much. Most girls simply figure they do this job for a couple of years, and after they quit, go back home, and maybe set up a company of their own with the money they made here, buy a house and a car, and live the good life. And that's the goal most girls have for themselves, and they will not quit this job until they reach that goal.

What happens in reality is, that things don't always go the way you want, and it takes up more time than you thought to get all the money together you need for your dreams. A lot of girls for example think they will make a lot of money always. But it doesn't work that way. You don't always make good money, there are good periods and bad periods. So you can't always save up how much you want to. Sometimes even you need to use the money you saved up before, to be able to pay for things when things aren't going well.

Another thing that happens in reality, is that you become addicted to shopping. Especially girls from countries like Romania, Bulgaria en Hungary, who never had the money to buy expensive bags, shoes and clothes. Having all this money, and not spending it on some nice expensive things, is quite a challenge. The idea is that if you're doing this job anyway, you might as well try to look nice now that you have the money for it, what else is the point?
And thus many girls spend thousands of euro's on shoes, clothes, sunglasses, bags and what not, simply because they can afford it now. This quickly turns into an addiction, meaning they stopped saving up money, and most of their money goes to expensive stuff they don't really need.

I know many girls that have the latest fashion from Louis Vuitton and Burberry and all the expensive brands you can imagine almost each day. They spend thousands of euro's a month to look good, but they've been working here for more than a decade already. I'm pretty sure their idea when they came here to do this job, was not to keep doing this job for more than 10 years, but at least being able to wear the most latest fashion. Yet that is what has happened to them. The money corrupts them, and postpones their goals, as it almost did with me.

And this is one of the main reasons why exit programs don't work. Because the exit program doesn't give them what they want, which is a lot of money. It is the reason many that do enter eventually quit before they finish the program. And it's the reason many that did exit the industry, come back into the industry again, simply because with this job they can make much more money, and pays for their expensive lifestyle. So unless an exit program can offer you a job with a salary close to that of a prostitute, it will never become a success.

The best way to have prostitutes exit their industry, is if you help them reach their goal. So, don't help them quit this job, but rather help them saving up the money they want. Giving them another job might help for some girls, but not for most. Since in the end, unless they reach their goal, they will always come back to this job.

Dutch version

Communication between brothel owners and sex workers
Today the media reported that brothel owners have to be able to communicate with sex workers to ensure their safety. It was a decision made by the European Court of Justice, that the sex workers renting rooms from the brothel owners have to speak either Dutch or English.

Personally I don't know any girls that don't speak at least English. So for me, and all the girls I know, this isn't much of a big deal. I do know however there is a group of South-American women working around the Old Church, and those brothel operators speak perfectly good Spanish. I also know the brothel operator who started this court case against the city government, Jan Harmsen, spoke with most of the girls working there in German, since also many Eastern European women speak German in stead of English.

The media however presented it as if the brothel owner was completely unable to talk with the girls at all, which I highly doubt, since it would be impossible to do an intake interview, which is mandatory. But also how do you explain to girls how they can rent a room, how much they have to pay, what the rules are etc. if you can't communicate with them. So the only logical explanation is that he was able to talk with them, just not in English or Dutch but in German, meaning they left that part out to frame the brothel owner as 'the bad guy'. My guess is also that it's not the media themselves which wrote this article, but that it comes from the office of the mayor, who intentionally wants to frame brothel owners as bad people, in order to close down windows.

Basically this decision from the court comes down to restricting the languages only to Dutch or English, not allowing Spanish or German anymore, which before were still allowed. In short it comes down to down sizing brothel owners their market, making it more difficult for them to rent out windows, since now they are only allowed to rent them out to people who speak either Dutch or English, and not also German and Spanish like before.
Also I feel a bit like sex workers yet again are being made into an exception, since other industries with a high chance of trafficking are not obliged to speak only Dutch or English, but can allow anyone to work in their business.

In my own opinion I do think sex workers should be able to speak English at least. After all, many of our clients come from all over the world, so not being able to speak any English at all would make your work in the Red Light District nearby impossible. But It would also prevent a lot of fights between the customer and sex workers, due to a communication problem. I also think that perhaps the accusations of the girls not being able to talk any English are exaggerated, for sure they know some English, but I think they mainly communicated with their brothel owner in German.
But like I said, I also don't know any women that don't speak any English at all. But with some brothel owners it is already a rule that you need to speak English mandatory.

All in all, the articles in the media surrounding this court case seem to be very one sided, and incorrect. But I'm not surprised, since it was a court case against the city government, who are still trying to close down windows. And with the decision today of the mayor to run for a second term as mayor, I doubt he will keep true to his word to close down less windows. After all, he also promised us to write us a letter, which we still haven't received.

Dutch version