How brothels operate in the Red Light District
In the last few months I criticized two projects which aim to start a new brothel, Amsterdam's My Red Light and the plans of Non Nobis for a so called 'humane brothel'. The reason for criticizing them comes from the fact how they are presented in the media opposed to existing brothels. In both cases the media coverage claims these brothels will be different: more humane, no pimps, making sexworkers less dependent and more freedom. The fact that they're presented in the media like this, comes from the fact that people have very little knowledge about what a brothel is and what they do, they often get confused for pimps and traffickers, and are often seen as the bad guys. So I thought I'd write a post about how brothels operate, to show you this image is wrong, and that the plans of the new brothels isn't as new or different from how they claim it is.

In this post I will focus on window brothels in Amsterdam, since covering other types of brothels will require more explanation, but keep in mind that most of these things apply to all brothels, but not everything. A window brothel is basically nothing more than a company that rents out workspaces to window prostitutes. See it as a salon, where hairdressers can pay rent to work from, or a real estate company who rents out business space to a shop for example. Some people compare it with a hotel, since the workplaces are rented out for short periods. But basically a window brothel operator is nothing more than a company that rents out rooms, that's it. In the Red Light District in Amsterdam there are about 19 different window brothel operators who rent out in total 278 rooms, also referred to as windows. 

Destination of the building
You're not just allowed to open up a brothel anywhere. In order to run a brothel, the building it is situated in needs to be assigned a prostitution destination in the city's building destination plans. Only a limited amount of buildings in Amsterdam have such a destination in the city's plans, based on the amount of brothels from years ago, but since that time the amount of buildings with a prostitution destination has only diminished as part of Project 1012 to close down brothels in the Red Light District. Once a destination plan of a certain building has been changed from a brothel into something else, the current brothel can remain in the building until it changes owner, after which it is not allowed to be a brothel anymore, unless the destination plan of that building is changed back by the city council.

As part of Project 1012 in Amsterdam, the city's gentrification project that was sold to the general public as a crime fighting project, but in reality was all about real estate, many of the current brothels in the Red Light District of Amsterdam lost their prostitution destination. This means that if those current brothel owners sell their real estate, it's not allowed anymore to be a brothel. No new buildings have been assigned a prostitution destination, making it also impossible for brothels that have to move, to continue elsewhere. In short, they're just reducing the amount of legal places where prostitution has been allowed, they're not moving prostitution elsewhere, they're simply forcing it to go underground.

If you do have a building which is allowed to be a brothel according to the city destination building plans, you still need a license as a brothel operator to start one. Gaining a license is difficult and expensive. Just applying for a license for example costs about €1700, and there's no guarantee that you will also be accepted after applying for it. A license is given out by the city itself, after a thorough check done by the government in what is called a Bibob procedure to check the brothel operator's integrity. This procedure will look into someone's past for any criminal activities or ties, to ensure the person doesn't have any criminal intentions or past.

The bullshit stories that people are spreading about brothel operators, including those of Lodewijk Asscher in te past for example, about brothel operators being criminals or having anything to do with crimes is therefore also pure bullshit. After all, if those stories would even remotely be true, they would've never even gained their license in the first place, and they certainly would've lost their license if any of these things would be true. The fact that people constantly conflate brothel operators with criminals is completely unjust, since they have absolutely no criminal ties or history, this has been thoroughly checked by the government itself! The clean up of the Red Light District was therefore also not to fight crime, since if that would be actually the case, they would've simply lost their license, and the city wouldn't have to buy these brothel operators out for millions of euro's.

Cities in The Netherlands rarely ever give out new licenses, making it nearly impossible to start a new legal business, while at the same time many cities, including Amsterdam are revoking licenses of existing brothels, creating a nation wide shortage in legal places to work for sexworkers. Since brothels where legalized in 2000 in The Netherlands there have never been this many brothels closed down, in total 46% of all the legal brothels have closed down since 2000. And this has caused many sexworkers to start working illegal, since they want to work legal, but the expenses of gaining a license and the fact that they're often refused make it almost impossible to get one.

Besides the Bibob check brothel operators also need to present a complete business plan for their brothel, which has to be approved by the city according to their own local laws (APV). And they need to get a hygiene report from the government health care organisation GGD. Of course they also need to be registered at the Chambers of Commerce as legal business owners, pay taxes and if any abuses are found in their brothel, the city has the right to immediately withdraw their license. 

A prostitute under the age of 21 working in a window brothel in Amsterdam is immediately a reason to revoke the license of the brothel operator. Not following correctly any of the (many) local rules for prostitution businesses will result in a penalty, which eventually can have them loose their license. These penalties could even be about not replacing an empty soap pump, as brothel operators have got penalties for those in the past. If the brothel operator knows a prostitute is a victim of trafficking, and does not report it to the police, they can loose their license. However, if they do report it they can also loose their license, because than they've let a victim of trafficking working there, so there's really no way for them to act good in a situation like this. Whether they report the victim of trafficking or not to the police, in both cases they're fucked and they risk their license, a paradox created by the city out for the blood of brothel operators, eager to close them down for whatever reason.

Renting out windows
Window brothel operators are only allowed to rent out their rooms to people who have registered themselves at the Chambers of Commerce as either a prostitute or under personal services, who have a valid European passport, and are at least 21 years of age. Everything gets checked by the brothel operators, since not following these rules would result in them loosing their license. The Chambers of Commerce registration gets checked every day by the brothel operator online to see if it's still an active registration. Passports get verified with a scan for authenticity every day. They check your registration of the city you live (GBA registration) in every day. So the stories of there being underage prostitutes working in the Red Light District are 100% bullshit.

Before a window brothel operator will rent you a window, he will do a mandatory intake interview with you, something the city has made mandatory to all brothel operators. The intake interview is to ensure that the prostitute in question is 'self reliant' enough to do this work, in short, it's just a way to find out if you work for yourself or for a pimp. The questions violate the privacy laws of The Netherlands, but brothel operators have no choice, since it's a requirement from the city to do so. Questions vary from why you want to do this job, to when you went on vacation the last time, how you got here, if you have a boyfriend, to even questions about your sex life etc. etc. 

The intake interview gets done only the first time a prostitute wants to rent a window and doesn't have to happen every day, unlike the registration checks. Any suspicions that the girl might be a victim will result in the brothel operator refusing girl, out of fear of losing his license. If a girl turns out to be a victim later, the brothel operator should report it to the police, but because that would result in them loosing their license this is problematic. However, if they don't report the girl to the police as a victim, they can also loose their license if the police or the city ever finds out, so the brothel operators are stuck. Either way they will loose their license, whether they do the right thing and report it to the police or not. So there's no way for brothel operators to do the right thing, because of these city rules. It is a completely idiotic system, purely built on the idea that the city can close down windows easier, just looking for any reason to close them down.

Once the story of the prostitute seems okay, all her papers are checked out and validated, the girl will usually sign for the house rules. Those house rules usually consist out of explaining what the prices are for the rooms during their shifts, from when to when the rooms are available, what is included in the agreement, how things work when you want to take free, etc. Girls are not allowed to work more than 6 days a week, and are not allowed to work double shifts. Also the use of drugs in the room is usually forbidden. The girl will pay for the room for that day, after which she will receive the key to the room, very much like how a hotel works. The rooms are rented out by shift, so each day the same ritual happens. The girl comes into the office, the brothel operator checks out all the paperwork and verifies them, the girl pays for the room, and she gets her key to the room.

The rooms inside the brothel
The room consists out of basically a bedroom, some are really small, others are much bigger, this all depends on how the building was constructed. Because the buildings are centuries old most of the times, they weren't designed to be brothels. So basically they've turned it into a brothel by dividing different rooms into one workplace for a girl. Each room will have of course a bed, with a plastic matras for hygiene reasons. A sink with a water tap, with paper towels, a soap pump and an alcohol spray and a cleaning spray. A trash can for all the trash (used paper towels, used condoms etc.). Usually the toilets are shared with the other rooms, as well as the shower. The lighting in the room is arranged by the brothel operator, if a light doesn't work, or you want to change the lighting in your room, the brothel operator can change this for you, although many girls change the lights themselves according to their own preferences. Sometimes girls change the lighting in the room, meaning the colors of the lights, by swapping them around with other lights in the room, to achieve the best lighting effect for themselves, so they look at their best in the room.

Each room has an alarm button, some rooms have multiple. If the alarm button is pressed, it will notify the brothel operator of any troubles, and the rule of the city is that they have to be present within 12 minutes. Some of these alarms are silent, others are incredibly loud and even have a yellow light on the outside of the building going off, to notify the people outside there is a problem. The police can also respond to the alarm going off, it's basically a matter of who gets there first. And if the brothel operator can't handle the situation (they're not allowed to fight), they will call the police.

In the room the brothel operators usually hang a list of rules and hygiene guide lines. Often they'll hang up a list of phone numbers you can call, such as the phone number of the police, of the office of the brothel operator, health care and other important phone numbers. Things such as condoms, sextoys, working clothes, lubrication, bed sheets, pillows etc. are all things the girl needs to bring herself. The rooms are cleaned each day by cleaners the brothel operator hires, who follow strict guidelines from the city's health care to ensure hygiene.

Most brothel operators in the Red Light District are really nice people, not the pimps they're often made out to be by the media, politicians, opinion makers and people with other interests. If a girl needs help they will help her, but the rules of the city often block how much they can help a girl. Most brothel operators have run their brothels for decades already, and often they're family businesses. Recently Vice Nederland did a really nice job of making a Dutch documentary about how brothels are run, which you can see here:

Dutch version

Amsterdam police says no prostitute works voluntarily
This week there was a lot of commotion about a Facebook post the police of Amsterdam did on their page. The post was centered around the European day for Human Trafficking, and was supposed to be about human trafficking. In stead the police of Amsterdam choose to single out only human trafficking in prostitution, and they where very stigmatizing and plain dumb with their statements.

The choice to pick (yet again) prostitution as a way to talk about human trafficking is interesting, since the last known statistics from Amsterdam show us that the majority of the possible victims don't even work in prostitution at all, but are exploited in another industry. In fact last known specified statistics show us that 62% of the possible victims in Amsterdam (43 possible victims in total) where exploited in another industry than prostitution, leaving only 38% of the victims coming from the prostitution industry itself (or 26 possible victims in total).

But besides the fact that the choice of the police to write about human trafficking in prostitution is an interesting choice, considering the fact that the majority of trafficking happens outside of the prostitution industry in Amsterdam, and the fact that prostitution is far more often associated with trafficking compared to any other industry, making it already stigmatizing on itself to yet again talk about only trafficking in prostitution. The article itself made the Dutch union of sexworkers PROUD angry by claiming that 'no 12 year olds would dream of becoming a prostitute' and that 'nobody does this voluntarily no matter how much they claim to be'. So PROUD filed an official complaint with the police of Amsterdam demanding a rectification. 

Due to the media attention the response of PROUD caught the police quickly formulated a response, claiming that they didn't meant that 'nobody would voluntarily become a prostitute', but that 'nobody would voluntarily become a victim'. Of course that goes without saying, I mean, have you ever heard anyone claiming they voluntarily would become victim of a crime? Of course not!
So of course the police meant that they didn't believe any prostitute would willingly do this job voluntarily, which corresponds with what they mention as motives to become a prostitute in their article, namely: poverty, loverboys and abuse. Applying those same motives to becoming a victim wouldn't make any sense, since nobody would voluntarily become a victim in the first place, but more importantly, you cannot become a victim of trafficking by poverty!!! Doing your job because otherwise you have no money is not a crime, and certainly not human trafficking.

And even than, they still wrote, and I quote: 'There's no 12 year old girl that answers to the question what you want to become when you grow up: I want to become a prostitute.' A pretty clear example that they weren't talking about victims, but about how they can't believe that women do this job voluntarily, and even stating that women who do this job to financially support themselves (out of poverty) are forced in their eyes. This also corresponds with almost all of their previous reports, in which they often make very high estimations, purely based on their own gut feelings, about how many prostitutes are forced into prostitution, as for example their report 'Schone Schijn' does, which estimated for example that between 50 to 85% of the prostitutes where forced, without doing any research about this.

So yes, the police their claim that they meant to talk about victims rather than prostitutes is purely a lie they told to avoid public blame. But there's so much more wrong with this article. For example, they claim that many women, often minors, are forced into prostitution. But looking at the most recent statistics from the police of Amsterdam itself, it shows that this is not 'often' the case as they claim. Last year they reported in total 59 possible victims in Amsterdam of which 4 where under the age of 18, so that's in total 6,8% of all possible victims in Amsterdam. By all accounts that cannot be called 'often', but more occasionally.

But probably most of all I'm angry about the tone of this article. The headline of the Facebook post of the police alone reads 'These women sometimes get raped 10 times a day'. The article purely makes it look as if trafficking victims in prostitution are all women that get raped day after day. But simple fact is that this does not apply to all victims. In fact, many victims are women that choose voluntarily to become a prostitute, unlike how the police chooses to believe, but got into a situation in which they became exploited. Often this involves women who needed help getting into prostitution, often in combination with migrating from another country to The Netherlands, and paid a high price for this to people offering this help, functioning almost like a job agency. Women in these kind of situations choose very consciously for this profession, but simply needed help because the Dutch government made it so difficult for women to enter prostitution. This is done on purpose by the way by the Dutch government, which is called the barrier model, which is supposed to prevent victims from easily getting caught in prostitution. But in reality this barrier model actually creates a lot of human trafficking, because now women that want to enter prostitution have to rely on others, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

The police obviously didn't think anybody would notice how stigmatizing their article would be, and thought they could a small lie here and there to exaggerate the story a little bit to gain more attention for this problem. They didn't actually think anybody would object to it, since few people have in the past, and they rarely ever got any attention. In fact, they wrote like how most other organizations often write about trafficking in prostitution; stigmatizing and filled with incorrect information, false statements and purely creating a negative image about prostitution. This is the stigma that we as sexworkers are constantly fighting, coming from organizations who are trying to help victims, but in doing so increasing the stigma and thereby making sexworkers more vulnerable to trafficking.

It should also come as no surprise that the negative image in the media about prostitution was the most often mentioned problem by prostitutes themselves in researches. And in those same researches it also is shown that sexworkers themselves are least happy about the police of all the contacts they have, which just shows the troubling relationship there is between the police and the sexworker. But that should come as no surprise when you read that the policeman thinks he can judge for us if we're doing this job voluntarily or not. This tunnel vision from police officers (not all, because there are some good ones as well), causes the police to distrust our honest answers when we answer why we choose this profession. And their distrust in us caused sexworkers to distrust the police. For example, I know one girl that was a victim of trafficking, and she strongly doubted to call in the police after exactly these kind of bad experiences. And you guessed it, once she did call the police and they got involved, she got into more trouble than she was before. And than the police keeps wondering why victims don't want to press charges?

Sadly though the police does not want to rectify their incorrect statements about trafficking in prostitution. They'd rather stigmatize an entire profession, rather than giving in to the fact that what they said was wrong and untrue. This partially also shows how deep the believe of the police is in how right they think they are. They really do think they can tell which prostitutes are forced or not, even if this is not the case. And because they believe this, other people from other organizations or even other police districts will believe this as well, causing them to do the same thing. And this has been going on for years already, and this simply needs to stop!

Dutch version

My Red Light not what they claim to be
Today was the press presentation of My Red Light, the new name of Project Own Window. This project aims to let sexworkers in Amsterdam's Red Light District run their own brothel. Or at least, that's what they claim, because here's the truth.

I've already talked about this project before, and criticized the framing of the mayor on this project. He proposed this project to be a 'pimp free’ brothel, insinuating with this that other brothels were not pimp free, and that this brothel would be the first brothel without pimps. A complete bullshit story, since first of all there are very few girls that actually have a pimp (I'll go into that further below) and since this brothel has just as much chance of renting their windows to a girl with a pimp as any other brothel.

Today's publicity about the project even stated that the current brothel owners are an increasing risk on abuses (aka trafficking). A complete bullshit story, which is just the reason why many girls don't trust this project. First of all there are hardly any abuses to begin with, as the numbers from the city of Amsterdam themselves prove. With only 1,5% (102 sexworkers) of all the 6750 estimated sexworkers in Amsterdam there are suspicions that they might be victims of trafficking. In fact, only about 30 woman anually press charges for human trafficking. So this is not really a big problem, unlike how people (like the mayor for example) often claim.

It's again the mayor trying to frame the current brothel owners as the bad guys in favor of this brothel, just so he can have an excuse to close down the other brothels. Current brothel owners don't increase the risk of abuses at all, and this project also doesn't reduce it. It's bullshit. Who runs the brothel has nothing to do with who's being exploited or forced. In fact, giving this project to the wrong sexworkers could even result in a pimp invested brothel, where the real people who are pulling the strings aren't the sexworkers, but the pimps controlling them. So than you'd basically be giving the pimps full control over this 'pimp free' brothel.

What people should really be asking themselves is which problem this project solves? It doesn't prevent any abuses, that's a fact. Girls working in this brothel could just as well have a pimp as the ones working with any other brothel, you can't see that on the outside, it's something that happens in someone's personal situation. As someone who runs a brothel you can't see this on the outside.

So if it doesn't stop the trafficking they claim to be stopping, than what problem does this project solve? Sexworkers would have more control over the brothel. Very nice, but the vast majority of sexworkers are already happy with how things are going in the current brothels. A research done by the PIC in the Red Light District itself shows only 5% is unhappy with their brothel operator, 50% is happy and 43% are neutral about it. Another research done by the Dutch government nation wide shows 79% being happy with their relationship with their brothel owner. So that's not a problem that needed fixing.

In fact, only 6 sexworkers showed an interest in working in this brothel at all, which shows just how small the demand for this project from the sexworkers side is. In the newspaper Monica talks about that there's a lot of interest from the prostitution industry itself, but that's not true at all, which is also the reason why she doesn't want to say how many sexworkers are involved in this project. Well, here's the truth: In total 15 girls where interested to work on this project, but most of them didn't want to work there, resulting in only 6 girls who actually want to work there. We're talking about only 6 sexworkers, even though in the Red Light District alone there are already an estimated 600 sexworkers working, so that's about 1%!

So if it's not the trafficking problem, and not how the brothel is being run, what other reason could they have to start this project? So sexworkers themselves can decide how they work? Well, we already can! I decide which days I work, how long I work, how I work. The mayors claim that girls are forced to rent a window 7 days a week, and pay for their room during vacation is largely bullshit. First of all it's not even allowed anymore to rent 7 days a week a room, so every brothel gives you at least one day off a week for which you don't have to pay the room. Secondly, just some brothels demand you to pay for your room if you go on vacation if you want to keep the rooms yours. This does certainly not apply to all brothels.

Just to give you an example. I don't work 7 days a week, I work 5 days a week, and also only pay for my room 5 days a week. So it's not that true that we have to pay for 7 days a week. I also can get as much vacation as I want, with a maximum of 6 weeks, and even more if you can find a girl who wants to work in my room during that period. In short, if another girl works in your room during your vacation, you can take as much vacation as you want. So this is just a lie!
And just to give you a little hint at how much better the rental conditions are for My Red Light, they only allow you to take maximum 3 weeks in a row vacation. My own brothel does not for example have a maximum on this. So this is not better, this is less!

Than they come up with the excuse that sexworkers can now decide how the brothel should look like. For example, so they can have a shower. Newsflash, every brothel where sexworkers work already have a shower, this is not something new! A mirror in our brothel? Please, come on, we already have those as well! In fact, my room has two big mirrors! It's nice that they can decorate their own brothel now, but if that's the reason for doing this project, than why didn't they just subsidize the current brothel owners to redecorate their brothels? Would've saved up a lot of money in stead of this very expensive project, which so far isn't really tackling any problems.

Than they mention the fact that we as sexworkers demanded more safe workplaces. That is absolutely correct, we even demonstrated for that last year. But than why are they still closing down more than twice as many windows as they're opening up now? If the problem is that there aren't enough safe workplaces, than why are you closing down twice as much of them as you're re-opening?
Chairperson of PROUD, Yvette Luhrs, said it correctly in the news article. This project is just being used as a small bandage on the huge gaping wound the city created themselves by closing down so many windows. It's a tiny discount on how many windows they're going to close down. It's like they first steal everything from you, and than you get one small piece back from them, and you should be happy about that.

Even worse is that this brothel is claiming to be the first prostitution company where sexworkers themselves are in control. Besides the fact that this is an insult to every sexworker that is currently running their own business, it is also incorrect. In fact, every single window prostitute IS running her own prostitution company. There are in Amsterdam alone already approximately 1000 sexworkers running their own business of which I'm one! So this is a huge insult on every other sexworker, as if we would not be running our own businesses, as if they would be the first, which is absolutely not true!

But even more ironic is the fact that their claim of a brothel being run by sexworkers isn't even true! Several employees from current brothel operators have already been in talks to start working there to run the brothel on a daily base! These are the same people who are currently working in the brothels the mayor is claiming to be increasing the problem of abuses. So how they fuck can you be claiming sexworkers would run their own brothel, if you're in talks with other people to run it, which are even the same people running the other brothels right now?!

Than they try to rip off from other brothels. For example, by creating a place where sexworkers come together and drink a cup of coffee. Well, I guess it's better to steal something good, than to come up with something shit yourself. Because they've simply stole this idea from several other brothels in Amsterdam's Red Light District. For example in the Sint Annenstraat there's a brothel who has the same thing, also two other brothels on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal have the same thing. This isn't new! You're just stealing the ideas from other brothel owners and claiming you're the first!

The community feeling they want to create is something for example they stole from my brothel operator. He frequently organizes parties and barbeques for example for all the girls working there. At New Year's Eve for example we had a party, we went one time to a pancake restaurant on a boat with all the girls, in the summer we had a barbeque, they even went with some girls to Sensation White! So this also isn't anything new!

But probably the worst of all things, is the fact that banks such as Triodos and Rabobank, who are notorious for refusing sexworkers, now all of the sudden want to be part of this project. Triodos even refused sexworker lead organisation PROUD, who stands up for the rights of sexworkers! But now when the mayor gets involved they all of the sudden pretend to be sexwork friendly. Good for those 6 girls who are going to be working there, but they're still refusing all other sexworkers. It's the worst form of hypocrisy. The banks that refuse sexworkers most often, are just trying to make a good name for themselves. But make no mistake, they still are refusing sexworkers, so it's just a privilege created by the mayor specifically for this project, and nothing else!

The more I find out about this project, and see how they present themselves (first prostitution business run by sexworkers) and the mayor (a pimp free brothel), the more I'm starting to dislike it. They're only interested in their own brothel, but not in any of the other hundreds of sexworkers working at other brothels. They're still closing down dozens of windows, and are using these 14 windows as leverage. While they're claiming it to be a brothel run by sexworkers, while in reality it will be the same people who are running the current brothels now.

Dutch version

Project 1012 in Amsterdam's Red Light District has failed
In recent years there have been a lot of complaints in the media about the crowds of tourists in Amsterdam. The many cheese-, ice- and wafel shops that popped up all over Amsterdam. More burgerbars, more Nutella shops. At the same time in recent years the number of prostitution windows as well as the number of coffeeshops have been reduced heavily, as part of gentrification project: Project 1012, to 'clean up' the Red Light District. The neighborhood had to become livable again, less crime, less 'unwanted' businesses.

In a newspaper article yesterday in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool however it turned out that the situation in the neighborhood hasn't improved at all, in fact, it's just gotten worse. Where there used to be plenty of things to do for the visitors that came to the Red Light District, now it's largely disappeared. Now more than 25% of all the window brothels have been closed down by the city. Also the number of sexshops has been heavily reduced, plus they have to close down earlier at 10 pm, in stead of the 2 am like how they had it before. Bars and clubs close down earlier, meaning drunk people end up half way through the night on the street with nothing to do.

At the same time the number of coffeeshops have been heavily reduced by the city. Partially forced by the city government under Project 1012 (19 shops), partially using the argument that they can't be too close to schools (11 shops), to reduce drug use under the youth these days. Not that this has any effect, so researched in order of the mayor proved, because it turned out this had no effect at all, since people under 21 never went into coffeeshops in the first place because this is not even legal.

At the same time the number of street drugsdealers in the area is increasing. They see their chance to sell their stuff to tourists looking for some drugs after the coffeeshops are closed. After all, there are now far fewer coffeeshops than before and they close down early, but the demand isn't less, and so they see a brand new market opening up for them. The consequence is that there are much more street drugsdealers than before, that operate very aggressively.

The approach of the city towards the Red Light District, to reduce the so called 'unwanted' businesses, and replace them with 'high class' businesses has failed completely. Many of these so called 'high class' businesses don't last very long at all, move to another area because they don't make much money in the Red Light District, or complain in the media about the lack of customers for their shops. My gosh, who would've guessed that visitors of the Red Light District would not be interesting in fancy fashion and artsy stuff and other bullshit!

Meanwhile also the police station near the Red Light District has been closed down, and the police has moved to the other side of the city's center on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Try and explain a drunk tourist in the Red Light District where that is! The situation has therefore become much less safe, with more fights, as also recent incidents have proven. A consequence of reducing the size of the Red Light District under Project 1012, closing down shops and bars earlier, causing drunk people to start hanging on the streets in the only area where there's still something to do: near the window brothels. With as a consequence that with more drunk people packed in higher concentrations hanging out on the streets having nothing to do, there are more fights.

The supervision of the police is besides that minimal. Many prostitutes complain about the lack of supervision from the police. We see how tourists have taken over the area, making fun of us, just coming there to watch us without any intention of going inside, while taking unwanted pictures of us that end up on social media. Police that is present often doesn't do much, and just hangs around on the bridge near the Old Sailors pub, staring at tourists, but barely doing anything. On top of that comes the fact that the city of Amsterdam is having financial problems, and has admitted that there's simply less money available for police protection. The consequences? Less supervision of the police!

Despite the financial problems however, the city still has plans to close down 37 more window brothels, closing down pretty much the entire Sint Annenquarter, and reducing the size of the Red Light District even further. The plans to close down 83 more windows already was changed to close down just 37 more windows due to financial problems. But with an even smaller area and less stuff to do, resulting in more people starting to hang on the streets in a smaller place, this will only cause more reason for conflicts. And although the buildings of the brothels that still will be closed down, will be bought by 1012 Inc., which isn't funded anymore by the city itself, the city is going to have to pay the brothel owners themselves huge damage payment for closing down their businesses, like how they've paid other brothel owners before.

That money could've been better spend on more police protection in the area, in stead of buying off brothel owners. Especially since the only result less brothels will have, is an increase in illegal prostitution, which again means more work for the police, for which they don't have the money. We've already learned from all over the country, that less legal prostitution doesn't mean it stops, it simply increases illegal prostitution. Also in Amsterdam this is the case, where since 2012 the number of illegal prostitution reports have almost doubled, from 41 reports in 2012 to 79 reports last year.

Meanwhile the policy of the city of Amsterdam for the Red Light District have created a more family friendly image. Less prostitution, less drugs, more art, culture and fashion is what they promoted the Red Light District with, if they promoted the Red Light District at all, which they often don't want to do, because they'd rather not promote the Red Light District at all. They wanted to get rid of the image of Amsterdam as the city of drugs and prostitution, something they obviously didn't succeed in, because still the area is being overrun by tourists, just now they come to party and drink, in stead of visit the prostitutes. On top of that they've gotten more tourists, since they promoted it for a larger audience, causing the Red Light District to be completely overrun by tourists that just come here to watch, and mainly causing more problems.

It's no wonder that things are going wrong in the Red Light District. More and more drunk tourists, in a smaller area, things closing down earlier, causing people to start hanging out on the streets earlier because there's nothing to do, in the only area which still is fun in the middle of the night. It's no wonder this is creating problems. Higher concentration of people in a smaller area with less things to do, under the influence of alcohol and (sometimes) dangerous drugs, with less police to uphold the law. Who would've guessed this could've gone wrong, right?

Dutch version
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
Human trafficking decreasing in The Netherlands
This week new statistics on human trafficking in The Netherlands where presented by the Dutch National Rapporteur Human Trafficking. At the same time the city of Amsterdam published their annual report on prostitution in Amsterdam, also with some trafficking statistics.

Less human trafficking than last year
The numbers the Dutch Rapporteur reported where from 2015, and they reported 1,321 possible victims of trafficking in The Netherlands. That is 15% less than the year before, when they reported 1,561 possible victims. About 66% of the possible victims come from the sex industry. In 2015 there were 827 possible victims in prostitution, which is 19% less than in 2014, when it where 1,026 possible victims. In short, less people are being reported as possible victims in the prostitution industry, almost 20% less.

The Dutch Rapporteur reports solely 'possible' victims. In short, these are not proven victims, but simply people of whom other people (police, marshals, city officials and social workers) have (slight) suspicions about that perhaps they could be victims. Of course the real question is, are they reporting only a part of a much larger group of trafficked victims, or are they reporting too many people incorrect as possible victims as a result of the hype on human trafficking from the past decade.

Interesting is that the largest decrease in possible victims come from the Dutch Royal Marshals (KMar). They reported 46% less possible victims than they year before. This is especially interesting since before they were responsible for reporting a large portion of the possible victims from prostitution under an article that does not require the victims to be coerced or exploited in any way. In fact, simply receiving help to cross the border, without being coerced or exploited in any way, was enough to become a victim of human trafficking. This only applies to people working in the sex industry. It is mainly this portion of 'possible' victims that are being reported less. 

The Dutch National Rapporteur claims the decrease in reported possible victims is no reason to assume there are less victims. This is kind of weird, since what she reports are assumptions, in other words, there's absolutely a reason to assume there are less victims because she reports them. The Dutch Rapporteur blames the Dutch Royal Marshals and police for this, claiming that there is 'less attention' for the problems of human trafficking. I sincerely doubt this, especially since there's no evidence to support this claim, and also because the attention for human trafficking has not diminished at all if you simply look at the media attention for trafficking from both of these sources. 

But the Dutch Rapporteur on Trafficking claims this all has to do with the huge stream of people fleeing from war from the Middle East. According to her the problems of smuggling people across the border has taken away the attention from human trafficking. This is very weird, since border control has become much tighter because of these problems, which should result in also more possible human trafficking victims being uncovered, and not less. After all, if you check more people, the chance is also bigger that you'll actually find something. So there's a big flaw in her logic to explain the decrease in her own statistics. 
More likely either the National Rapporteur really believes this herself, which just shows how tunnel visioned she works. Or she knows this is not really the case, but simply claims this in hopes that she'll still get enough attention and funding from the Dutch government. After all, if the problem is smaller, this might affect the budget the government is giving you.

For those who want a percentage of how many prostitutes might be forced or exploited. Since there are about 827 possible victims in prostitution, and the total amount of sexworkers in The Netherlands are estimated at around 20.000 (some people claim 25.000 or 30.000), it would come down to about 4,1%. This is quite far away from the numbers that often dominate the Dutch media, in which (interestingly) often public prosecutors and politicians claim much higher numbers (70%, 50%, 90%, 95% etc.), even though there's not a shred of evidence or even a slight hint that these percentages hold any realistic value. All these numbers are always based on pure estimations, without any research at all.

Very little victims in prostitution in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam there are an estimated 6,750 sexworkers working, which means they hold about more than a quarter of all the sexworkers working in The Netherlands. Amsterdam is of course famous for it's Red Light District, even though this is only a small portion of the total amount of sexworkers in Amsterdam. There are about 1,000 sexworkers working behind the windows, of which about 600 in Amsterdam's Red Light District of which I am one.

So one might think that a large number of possible victims come from Amsterdam, considering the fact that about more than a quarter of all the sexworkers in The Netherlands work here. So you'll probably surprised to hear that only 102 possible victims in prostitution where reported in Amsterdam, according to the numbers of the city itself. This would come down to about 1,5% of all the sexworkers in Amsterdam.

Now of course, just like with the numbers of the National Rapporteur, these 'possible' victims are just suspicions. In short, just because the police or a city official thinks a girl might be a victim doesn't make it true. Especially considering the fact that prostitutes are often being portrayed in the media as victims, while in reality a lot of them are definitely not (speaking from own experience). So what's interesting is to compare the suspected victims with the actual number of victims that annually actually press charges. And in 2015 we where talking about 33 victims actually pressing charges for human trafficking, which is almost the same as the year before (29 in 2014) and the year before that (32 in 2013). In short, quite a bit lower than how many people are being reported as 'possible' victims.

And for those who think that indeed the Dutch Rapporteur could be correct about there being less attention for human trafficking. Or that perhaps the police and city officials don't do enough to track it down. On window prostitution alone city officials checked windows about 1321 times (they report it by location, which was 436 times on 130 locations, but there are 394 windows, so I had to made a rough calculation). On top of that comes the police who check windows about 545 times, plus an additional 75 times from the GGD (Dutch Governmental Health Care). That brings us in total to 1941 times that 394 windows where checked. And than I haven't even talked about the other checks they do in other prostitution forms. The 18 sex clubs in Amsterdam where checked in total 93 times for example. And on top of that come the 2196 contacts that the Amsterdam Health Center for prostitutes (P&G292), who also report possible victims to the police, had with sexworkers themselves.

Looking at the previous year, the number of checks done by both the police and city officials has remained roughly the same. In 2014 for example there where 1765 checks by police and city officials, so it's even a bit more than last year. In short, the conclusion of the Dutch Rapporteur that there would be less attention for human trafficking does not seem to be supported at all by the numbers from Amsterdam. In fact, there's slightly more attention for this problem. This is especially interesting since Amsterdam is responsible for a large part (more than 25%) of the sex industry in the Netherlands. 

As you can see the numbers of trafficking in Amsterdam are very low, despite the fact that there's a lot of control from the government on it, and despite the fact that Amsterdam is responsible for about 25% of the entire industry in The Netherlands. Numbers and statistics that some politicians, like for example Lodewijk Asscher or Eberhard van der Laan, or even public prosecutors such as Jolanda de Boer or Werner ten Kate, have spoke of before are absolute nonsense. Looking at the facts, you can clearly see who has a hidden agenda. Politicians such as Asscher and Van der Laan just claim such nonsense because they want to close down windows. And unfortunately public prosecutors such as Ten Kate and De Boer are apparently just very much against the idea of legal prostitution. 

This is also the reason why the numbers they call out always differ so much. For example before in Amsterdam they claimed that more than half of the prostitutes where forced, while later they claimed that it is about 400 a day in Amsterdam, quite a big difference. The numbers are not even close to what's being reported, it's more like 100 tops, since only 33 a year actually press charges and suspicions about possible victims could be wrong. They always use completely different numbers, which should already be a reason to be suspicious, because once their previous numbers are being debunked, they need to switch to new ones until those are being debunked as well. For Amsterdam especially their claims are interesting, since the numbers that come from the city itself show a completely different image from what they claim themselves.

And if you don't believe me. Just click on the links I posted in this article, they'll hook you up directly to the statistics published by the Dutch Rapporteur and city of Amsterdam itself.

Dutch version

How banks discriminate sexworkers in Holland
Prostitution is a completely legal and legitimate profession in the Netherlands. Sexworkers like me pay taxes, we have run our own company as a self-employed company owner, we're registered at the Dutch Chambers of Commerce. But prostitution is mostly just a legal profession on paper. There are many things which proves that sexwork still isn't really accepted in the Netherlands. Despite all the things you may hear about the Netherlands and sexwork, and even some people in the Netherlands may claim about sexwork (yes, Jojanneke I'm talking about you), sexwork still isn't considered to be a normal profession.

One of the most clear examples is the systematic refusal of banks to do any business with sexworkers. Some banks just refuse sexworkers completely as a customer, even a private account, like how I was refused by the Rabobank back in 2010. One of the few banks which do accept sexworkers is the Dutch ING Bank. As a sexworker they make no problem about opening up a private account, and even a business bank account is possible. But what is the point of opening up a business bank account, if for example they won't let you accept creditcards? Here's what happened to me.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try to get a mobile debet/creditcard machine. Even though many customers pay cash, it happens often that people will come to ask if it's also possible to pay with creditcard. Or they first pay 50 euro, and than want to stay longer, but they don't have anymore cash with them, so they'd need to go to an ATM machine in stead. Sadly enough you never see them back anymore, because either they get lost, or they cool down too much to still be in the mood to go back. So I decided perhaps it would be a good idea to try and get a mobile debit/creditcard machine from the bank. After all, a couple of other sexworkers in the Red Light District have one as well, so apparently it is possible, as it should be with any legitimate business.

So we started looking into the possibilities of getting a creditcard machine. We looked at the costs, the pros, the cons, we figured out everything before trying to apply for one. Things where looking good, and we figured out the best way to go was to go to the ING Bank, where I also have my private account. I already asked them in the past if it was possible as a sexworker to open up a business bank account, and they where totally open about it. So I though I was making a good choice to pick the ING Bank as one of the few sexwork friendly banks. After all, they are a Dutch bank.

Going to the bank we first talked to one of the advisers about this. I asked if it was possible to get a mobile creditcard/debetcard machine for myself as a window prostitute. No problem they said at the bank, we do it all the time, according to them they had many women from the Red Light District which had one from the ING. They just advised sexworkers to be registered at the Chambers of Commerce under personal services in stead of prostitution, since otherwise the creditcard companies sometimes give problems with it. No problem, I was registered under personal services, as also the city of Amsterdam recommends. Besides that the name of my company was also one that didn't relate to anything to do with sex, in order to avoid future customers getting any problems with the name of my company on the bill of their creditcard.

So a couple of days later I came back and applied for a creditcard/debetcard machine with another bank employee at the ING Bank. He was completely oblivious to the fact that I was a prostitute as I noticed during the conversation. He told me the debetcard and creditcard where two sepperate things you needed to apply for, with the creditcard being an extra option on the debetcard machine. But since most customers I get in the Red Light only have creditcard, I really didn't care about the debetcard option, I just wanted the creditcard option. So I applied for both since debetcard was required as a minimum. A couple of days later I got the machine send by post. Going good so far I thought. But this Monday I got a letter from the ING Bank stating that they didn't accepted my application for the creditcard option. I was surprised, since I followed all the advise the bank employee gave me, and still I was being refused. On top of that, the ING stated in their letter that 'they' had refused me, and apparently not the creditcard companies. The letter stated this was due to the nature and/or products and/or services my company was offering.

So we called the ING Bank to ask them why they had refused me. Once I was talking to one of the employees, they notified me this was due to the fact that I was working in prostitution. I was surprised, since I know other girls with a creditcard machine from the ING Bank as well, so how come they had one if they didn't allow this? And secondly, how did the people that did the checkup for creditcard acceptance know I was a prostitute? They explained to me that the reason why they didn't accept me was because they don't accept any erotic services as customers for creditcards. A bit surprised I asked them why. Well, because according to the employee of the bank it was difficult to prove that I actually provided a service. If for example a customer's wife would ever question the name of my company on their bill, and they would deny the fact that they had paid me for sex, they could try to reclaim the money, saying they never had been to me, and therefore the payment was incorrect.

I was a little bit puzzled. After all, there are many other types of services which you also can't always prove where provided. Name for example a massage, or a visit to a beautysalon. I mean, how could you ever prove as a beautysalon that a person actually got a treatment from you? You can't, just as well as I can't prove it that people come to me for sex. So did that also mean they refused massage salons and beauty salons as customers for creditcards? Well, no! But it was because I hadn't been honest about the goal of my company. Again I was a bit surprised, after all, the city and even the government advises sexworkers to register at the Chambers of Commerce under personal services in stead of prostitution. And that's also what I offer, a personal service. Not every customer comes for sex, but I always deliver a personal service. So in fact, personal services is the most accurate description of my job, on top of the fact that the government as well as they city and various other organisations advise us to register under this.

Than the employee over the phone began to back up. No, I did correctly register under personal services, but because I was working in prostitution, they couldn't accept me. But than it really started to bug me. How did they know I was working in prostitution? After all, I registered under personal services, not under prostitution. And the bank employee that arranged everything for me when I was at the bank certainly didn't notify them about my job, since he wasn't even aware of it. So how the hell did they find out I was working in prostitution? They couldn't answer that, because of 'privacy' reasons. An interesting answer, since we're talking about my privacy, so I demanded them to answer me. Than they came up with some bullshit reason that it wasn't my privacy, but the bank's privacy, which made it even weirder. I didn't know a bank, a company, had privacy as well. After all, privacy regards people's personal information, not that of a company.

When the employer started to fall back onto the fact that I had applied incorrectly under personal services, while I was working in prostitution, and I replied again that this is what the government and the city themselves advised, I realized we where going in circles. He was just giving me bullshit answers, referring one thing to the other thing, without making any sense. Of course it's complete bullshit that people in prostitution couldn't prove that a services was ever provided, since this applies to many other services as well. It's the whole reason why the machine prints out a ticket.

I decided to give up, since I knew this conversation was going nowhere, and he was just there to keep me going in circles with his bullshit answers. Fact is sadly enough, that even the most sexwork friendly bank in the Netherlands, the ING Bank doesn't want to accept sexworkers as acceptable customers. This does not just hold back improving the positions of sexorkers, as was the goal of the legalization back in 2000, but it even makes it more difficult to fight human trafficking. That's because of a big problem with proving human trafficking, is the fact that money is mostly earned cash, so there's no way to keep track of the money flows. This makes it particularly difficult for victims to prove that they were victims, and the often huge amounts of income that they gave away to their traffickers. The acceptance of creditcard machines could have been a very useful tool in the fight against trafficking, making it easier to see where the money flows to, but the banks block this.

But even more worrying I think is the fact that the bank apparently has information about sexworkers being a sexworker, even though you're not even registered as a sexworker. I worry about my privacy. How is it possible that the bank can find out about this, when I'm not even registered as a sexworker? And what other consequences might this have for the rest of my life? What other things may I be refused in the future because I was once a sexworker? If I start my own company in a couple of years from now, to do something else, will I still be refused, because I'm registered with them once as a sexworker? And where do they register this? And how come I'm not allowed to know what information they have about me, and where they got this information from? I should be allowed to know where they got their information about me from, since this is my private information.

So, no matter what you heard about prostitution in the Netherlands being accepted as a legal profession, don't believe it. If prostitution was really a legal profession in the Netherlands, I should be able to accept creditcards just like any other company. Yet simply because I'm a prostitute they won't accept me. This does not only restrict sexworkers in their freedom and their position in society, but it even makes fighting human trafficking very difficult. So even though I have a legal business like everyone else, the banks still refuse me. And what is the government doing about this? To improve out position? Well, they're too busy spending 3 million euro's a year on exit programs for sexworkers to make us quit our job.

Dutch version
Mass tourism in the Red Light District?
Dollebegijnensteeg at 2 in the afternoon on a Friday is empty
A short while ago a book was published, called 'Aan de Amsterdamse Wallen'. The book is about Amsterdam's Red Light District and the transformation of the area under Project 1012, and is written with the contribution of the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan. The book is also financed by the main investors behind the plans of the mayor of Amsterdam, to further gentrify the area and close down more prostitution windows, Syntrus Achmea. The book was also (unsurprisingly) presented first to the mayor of Amsterdam.

The book makes all sorts of claims. For example, that there were many so called 'mafioso' owning buildings, to use them as a front for criminal activities such as money laundering and human trafficking. These 'mafioso' would mainly be using window brothels and coffeeshops as a front for their criminal activities. But interestingly enough, since they started the project in 2007, they have never been able to find any of these so called 'mafioso'. None of the accused owners were ever found guilty of any of the crimes the city accused them of. In fact, one of the former brothel owners who was accused of this, Charles Geerts, even won a court case against these claims from the government.

Now, the writers of the book are claiming that the Red Light District is crushing under the huge amounts of tourists it gets. The reason to blame according to them? Well, the brothels and coffeeshops of course! Interesting, since I work there every day, and in the past few years I've only seen less tourists come there. In fact, if I go outside right now in the Red Light District, it's more empty than ever before. During the day there are hardly any people walking around. After 2 'o clock in the night there's almost nobody in the streets anymore, while years ago you could walk on the heads of people. When I came back from work 4 or 5 years ago at 5 in the morning, there were still people outside. These days I often don't even stay until that late in my window, simply because there's nobody in the streets.

It's so funny to see people claiming that mass tourism in the Red Light District is getting too much, which should make my a very rich person, because that would mean I could make a lot of money. But that fact is that I don't. In fact, when I walked around the day before New Years Eve, I could easily walk during the evening in the Red Light District, without any problems. If I would have walked there 5 years ago, it would've taken me at least 30 minutes to get from on side to the other, because of the huge crowds that came there. In fact, the last day before New Years Eve, it was even quieter than an average Monday evening years ago.

Three years ago for example, on New Years Eve, I wanted to go with my fiancé to the Dam Square to look at the fireworks. My workplace is less than a 5 minute walk away from there. After 30 minutes of struggling through the crowds we finally gave up, and went back, because it was too crowded. Last year on New Years Eve my street was almost empty on New Years Eve. My fiancé was even surprised to see how empty it was. There were hardly any people in the street, in contrary to the years before when you could hardly get through the crowds.

They can claim what they want, but I don't see more tourists at all. In fact, I see much less tourists coming to the Red Light District. Why do you think so many prostitutes are complaining about the lack of clients and income? It's not because it's so freakin' busy. A couple of years ago, 5 in the morning all the girls would still be working behind the windows. These days around 2-3 in the morning, you see most girls already going home. And this is also something that other people have noticed. Clients on websites like write that so few women are working behind the windows, that so many windows are empty. Not such a weird thing, if there are hardly any people outside anymore.

Statistics say that there's more tourism. Well, I don't know where, but at least not in the Red Light District or at the Damn Square, where I live close by. I've never seen the Red Light District this quiet before. The claims that the writers of the book make are complete nonsens. But than again, the book is being financed by investors and contributed by a mayor that both have a desire to continue with Project 1012, and close down more coffeeshops and window brothels. Go outside people, and ask any prostitute right now, working in the Red Light District, and ask her if she sees if there are more tourists. I will guarantee you that they will answer that it's less!

Last week we took some pictures of the former brothels. It was a normal Friday afternoon, the streets were mostly empty. If we would've taken this picture a couple of years back, it would have been impossible to take pictures without any people in it. The closure of window brothels only resulted in less people, I can say from 6 years of experience. There are not more tourists in the Red Light District, there are less! If there really would be more tourists, I would really like to know where, because I ain't seeing them each day when I work there.

Dutch version

'Upgrading' the Red Light District?
Ever since 2007 the city of Amsterdam has been trying to upgrade the Red Light District, and simultaneously fight crime, such as money laundering and human trafficking, by trying to get rid of window brothels. But besides brothels they were also targeting coffeeshops, souvenir shops and phone shops and calling them 'low value businesses'. And even though that also reports see no measurable results when it comes to for example fighting crime, so called 'mafioso' or criminals were never found and none of the brothel owners ever turned out to be using their brothels as a front for money laundering or human trafficking, like how they claimed, they still closed down about 128 window brothels in Amsterdam, of which 97 in Amsterdam's famed Red Light District. And because none of these things were ever proven, the city spend millions of euro's buying the owners out, reducing legal prostitution, while illegal prostitution has been growing in Amsterdam.

But what about that 'upgrade'? To turn 'low value' businesses into 'high class establishments'? What have they achieved in that area? Dennis Boutkan from the PvdA, the political party who started this whole project under the wings of former alderman Lodewijk Asscher and later under mayor Eberhard van der Laan, even wrote an article in the newspaper claiming the Red Light District is improving.
So let's see what great improvement there has been in the area, and let's take a look at all the former brothels that were closed down, and see how they are today. The question is, is it an upgrade that achieved turning prostitution, something considered to be a 'low value business', into a high class establishment. Judge for yourself. Here are some pictures from some of the streets before the closures.

Amsterdam's Red Light District before closures

Boomsteeg before
Trompettersteeg 5 before

Dollebegijnensteeg 5 before
Goldbergersteeg (Sint Annendwarsstraat 26) before
Oudekerksplein 2 and 4 before
Betlehemsteeg (Sint Annendwarstraat 24) before

Amsterdam's Red Light District today

Oudezijds Achterburgwal area
Main Red Light District canal including connected alleys

Boomsteeg 1 
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. One of the 18 buildings that were bought for 25 million euro from Charles Geerts, about 500.000 euro per window, making this building cost about 2 million euro.
After: These buildings haven't been in use for years. The buildings have been neglected. In fact, nothing much seemed to have been changed since 2007 when they bought these buildings. In one place there's upstairs even a red light still burning. Why was this worth 2 million euro you'll be asking yourself? Good question! The building is currently being considered to re-open again as a window brothel under Project Own Window, if they ever get that project of the ground. And if the project doesn't work out, the mayor has already stated it will not be available for prostitution anymore. As you can see, no upgrade or high class establishment here.

Boomsteeg 2
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution window. Another one of the former buildings from Charles Geerts, meaning also this building was a 2 million euro investment of tax payers money from the city government.
After: Like the previous building, also this building hasn't been in use for years. It's been neglected, just like the other building, and also this building is being opted for a possible re-opening of window brothels under Project Own Window. Again, no upgrade or high class establishment, just more neglect.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 17
Before: Brothel with 1 prostitution window. Also this building was owned by Charles Geerts, meaning the costs of this building comes down to about 500.000 euro.
After: Also this building is not in use. And since it's not being used anyway, the prostitution health organisation funded by the city, P&G292, has took the opportunity to display their recently released magazine 'The Sex Worker' behind one of these windows. Nobody ever uses this building however, it's just another empty building. Again, no upgrade or high class establishment.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 19
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. Also this building was owned by Charles Geerts, meaning the costs of this building were around 2 million euro.
After: Like the other buildings, also this building is not being used. Neglected as you can see, it's just another building people pass in the Red Light District without ever looking at. Great upgrade again people! And, oh yes, also this building might re-open perhaps one day again as part of Project Own Window. Again no upgrade or high class establishment.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 27
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. Another building from Charles Geers, and another 2 million euro for the tax payers.
After: Yep, you got it! It's empty again! Not in use anymore after a previous business, Ignoor, left the building years ago to open up in the Magnoliastraat outside of the Red Light District. Another empty building, another great improvement! So again, no upgrade or high class establishment.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60 and 62
Before: On nr. 60 Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. Also this building belonged to Charles Geerts, meaning this building has a price tag of 2 million euro. And on nr. 62 the old office of Charles Geerts himself.
After: Yes, it still looks like a brothel including red lights and red curtains, and that's because today it's a prostitution museum partially funded by the city itself, including misleading information about how many women are forced in this area. And perhaps this is also the reason this brothel look-a-like is allowed, while real brothels aren't, because it shows what the city wants you to see, their version of prostitution. Funny enough, it's the most successful 'upgrade' this project has achieved. Turning a brothel into a museum looking like a brothel about prostitution. But is turning a brothel into a museum posing as a brothel an upgrade? You might say visually no, because it looks exactly like a brothel, but the fact that it has become something of a museum you might say yes. So we'll count this as an 'upgrade'.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 64
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Also this building was owner by Charles Geerts, meaning also this building cost tax payers 1,5 million euro.
After: A cheese and wafel shop. Ironically the same people that complained about the Red Light District before and were happy that they closed down window brothels are now the same people that complain about the huge amount of cheese, wafel and ice cream shops (the center of Amsterdam has 90 of them!). So it's ironical that the one thing it got replaced with is again something many people complain about. And since we already have 90 of these kind of shops in the city's center, I'm not sure if another cheese and wafel shop would be considered an 'upgrade', since already people are talking about doing the same thing with cheese, ice cream and wafel shops, as what they did with brothels. People want them gone. But I'm pretty sure a shop like this isn't a 'high class establishment'.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 66
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Another building formerly owned by Charles Geerts. Costs? About 1,5 million euro for the tax payers.
After: Rarely in use as an exposition space. Most of the times it's closed, just like how you see it in the picture. Occasionally it's being used as a studio space and exposition room. Last time it had an exposition was 11-09-2015, and before that 12-12-2014, just to give you an idea of how popular this place is. I doubt with such low interest they are able to pay the full rent, so this is probably one of those businesses that get a huge discount on their rent just to occupy the place as place holders.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 80
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Another one of Charles Geerts his buildings, which puts the price around 1,5 million euro.
After: The building is being used by two businesses. The first one is Off The Wall, a concept store which is currently closed apparently because it was completely dark inside. Looking on the Facebook page of this concept store, you can see it's a 'cultural gift store' selling hugely popular stuff like cufflinks for 25 euro, t-shirts for 15 euro and apparently also art for an unknown price. Also this shop doesn't pay the full price for their rent, but get a discount to serve as a place holder,
The second shop above is Kuro, which is a jewelry shop, but apparently they are also looking for a barber, which just shows you the weird combination. It's not selling expensive jewelry however, like as in diamonds and gems, but more hippy and urban like jewelry out of leather and stuff like that. Strongly getting the idea this is another one of the concept stores that doesn't pay full rent, but serve as placeholders and get a big fat discount from the city to keep us out.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 82
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Also this building was owned by Charles Geerts, putting the costs again around 1,5 million euro.
After: Now it's a shop owned by NGO 'Not For Sale' called Dignita, which fights human trafficking while selling things at the same time. Don't let the pictures on their website fool you, those are the pictures of their restaurant elsewhere in Amsterdam, the shop itself is far less appealing and low budget looking. The shop advertises with the fact that this used to be a former brothel, and in a commercial for the christian political party ChristenUnie (most famous for their anti-prostitution statements) the owner even claims that 'forced women used to work here', even though there's no proof for that claim. The shop was closed however at 2 pm in the afternoon on the Friday we took this picture, and the times it was open few people go inside.

Barndesteeg 5
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Another one of the former buildings of Charles Geerts if I'm not mistaking, costing about 1,5 million euro's again.
After: Previously here was 'Red Light Fasion', a temporary project by the city to show what the Red Light District 'could be'. After that it was empty for years until recently a tattoo shop opened up here. Although when we took this picture at 2 pm the shop was closed, as well as the next day. Often it seems to be empty inside, with no people coming in. The fact that their website is still under construction suggests it's a start up company, and also the inside of the shop looks like it doesn't have a large budget. It's probably another example of a placeholder, not paying the full price for their rent. But was a tattoo shop really the upgrade they were looking for? And how can you count a tattoo shop as a 'high class establishment'?

Oudezijds Voorburgwal 97
Before: Brothel with 2 prostitution windows. Another one of Charles Geerts' buildings if I'm not mistaking, which puts the price tag around 1 million euro.
After: Art gallery/shop that's been here for a while already. Not too many people go in here. One interesting detail however is the painting hanging in the top window, of a nude woman. So I guess there's still a woman standing behind a window there, even though it isn't a brothel. Is that trying to profit from the area's fame as a prostitution area or just coincidence? Anyway, not sure if this shop is making a lot of money or not to be able to pay for the rent of a building worth 1 million euro, so I think also this shop gets a large discount to be a placeholder.

Gelderse kade
Situated a little bit outside of the main Red Light District area

Geldersekade 42
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Another one of the buildings previously owned by Charles Geerts, putting the costs around 1,5 million euro.
After: Looks like someone's private residence, although I'm not sure. Not sure if we can count a simple private residence as a 'high class establishment' though, but perhaps an upgrade. At least it's better than another cheese shop, right?

Geldersekade 76
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. Another one of Charles Geerts his buildings, putting the costs around 2 million euro.
After: A laser hair removal salon. It was closed however at 2 pm in the afternoon. It still looked to be in use though. The salon is part of a larger company with several shops all over the country. But can we call a laser hair removal salon a high class establishment? Well, I'll count it as a possible upgrade.

Sint Annenkwartier
Prostitution filled quarter of small alleys part of the main Red Light District

Dollebegijnensteeg 5
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Previously owned by Office 52, which traded these buildings for window brothels in Stoofsteeg that were previously owned by Charles Geerts. Which puts these buildings also roughly around 1,5 million euro.
After: Yep, it's empty again. The previous business that was in here, Peer, has moved just outside of the Red Light District area. The owner was already complaining before in newspapers that few clients came inside. Not such a weird thing in such a small alley, especially if it's being mainly dominated by prostitution. But even without prostitution I doubt people would ever go into such a small alley to see what is there, if it's not something hugely interesting. Right now the place just looks like a construction work place. Guess the upgrade didn't work here, and it certainly doesn't look very 'high class' at the moment.

Dollebegijnensteeg 3
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Like the previous one these buildings were owned by Office 52 and traded them for some windows elsewhere that were owned by Charles Geerts. This puts the value yet again around 1,5 million euro.
After: It looks unused. In most of the windows it seems empty, looking through one window you can see a video projection on the wall, but it doesn't look like anyone's using it. It's certainly not a shop or anything. Was this really worth 1,5 million euro's? To have it being unused, like many other buildings? So is this the upgrade? I doubt it, since the buildings aren't being used much if at all. Is it a high class establishment? Well, if you call being empty and forgotten high class.

Sint Annendwarsstraat 26 (Goldbergersteeg)
Before: Brothel with 8 prostitution windows. 2 Windows in front, and 6 windows down the stairs in what is called Goldbergersteeg, an alley. Not sure how much these windows were paid for, but since they're usually worth depending on how many windows there are, this is probably a pretty expensive building around 2,5-4 million euro, rumors even say much more.
After: It's been empty and unaltered ever since the brothel had to close down. I knew all the women that worked here, I've only seen a few of them now working elsewhere in the Red Light District, their income has declined however since this was one of the most popular places for clients to visit. No upgrade to see here, since the gate is also closed and the buildings is not in use.

Sint Annendwarsstraat 3 (Trompettersteeg)
Before: Brothel with 5 prostitution windows. 2 Windows facing the Sint Annendwarsstraat and 3 windows going into the Trompettersteeg alley around the corner. Also this building belonged to Office 52, and they swapped these windows for some other windows elsewhere in the Red Light District that were previously owned by Charles Geerts. This means this building is worth around 2,5 million euro.
After: Hangover Information Center. Speaking from watching it every day, not a lot of people go inside. During the day it's mostly closed, like here in the picture we took at 2 pm in the afternoon. During the night sometimes people come in to watch. Most people think it's funny, but don't actually buy anything there. There's also not much to buy, it's just one drink that apparently will magically cure your hangover. Seeing how few people actually buy from here, I cannot imagine this shop making enough money to pay for their rent. Another placeholder perhaps? Everything about it looks very sterile. During the nights the white lights from this thing are blinding and screw up the whole atmosphere the red lights are giving off. But I'm guessing that's also it's purpose, to disturb the old atmosphere and scare off our clients. And perhaps you could see this as an upgrade, although it completely doesn't fit in this area, but I doubt you can call it a 'high class establishment'.

Sint Annendwarsstraat 11
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. From the same owner as the building of Sint Annendwarsstraat 26. Unknown how much was paid for, but probably around 1,5 million euro, rumors even put it around 4,5 million euro.
After: As you can see another huge upgrade. A by garbage bags covered building. Nobody seems to own or use it. Not really high class.

Sint Annendwarsstraat 24 (Betlehemsteeg)
Former function: Brothel with 6 prostitution windows. The owner of the buildings sold it, so the brothel owner had to move against his will. Not sure how much was paid for, but perhaps somewhere around 3 million euro, considering the amount of windows.
After: A lunchroom. Actually one of the few things that look good, though it's completely out of place at the moment in the midst of this prostitution only area. Not very busy inside though. But is this a 'high class establishment'? A lunchroom? Besides, why do we need a lunchroom here, while on the corner there's also a lunchroom many people already go to, including all the prostitutes that work in this area?

Trompettersteeg 3
Before: Brothel with 2 prostitution windows, part of the same building on the other side in the Dollebegijnensteeg.
After: Before there used to be 2 windows on this side, and 3 windows on the other side in Dollebegijnensteeg as part of this building. Now they broke out all the walls it's just the same place as Dollebegijnensteeg 3, meaning it's not in use, again! No upgrade or high class establishment.

Trompettersteeg 5
Before: Brothel with 2 prostitution windows, same building as Dollebegijnensteeg 5 on the other side.
After: Like the other windows above, also these 2 windows have been turned into one big space by breaking out the walls, and is now one place that on the other side is Dollebegijnensteeg 5. This is where Peer used to be, which has now moved on elsewhere like I explained before. No upgrade and certainly not high class!

Old Church Square
Part of the main Red Light District area well known for being situated around the Old Church

Oudekerksplein 4
Before: Brothel with 4 prostitution windows. Not sure who owned this before, or what the price was, but probably somewhere around 1,5-2 million euro's based on what others got paid for.
After: A lunchroom/terrace. At times it can be busy here, one of the few places which is kind of successful, although it was both empty outside and inside when we came there at 2 pm in the afternoon. Around the corner is a bar/terrace which is always filled with people, which makes you wonder why this terrace wasn't filled when we took the picture? So this could be considered an upgrade, but a lunchroom as a high class establishment is up for debate I guess.

Oudekerksplein 22
Before: Brothel with 2 prostitution windows. Unknown what was paid for, but probably somewhere around 1 million euro.
After: Red Light Radio. It's a well known story that this place has been given to the people that run this radio station. They pay minimum rent. I doubt however they can call this a 'high class establishment', since the look has remained exactly the same from when it was a brothel, and since the people in this building are hardly paying rent, I doubt this will be like this forever. Probably still waiting for investors to come along. Inside it's cluttered, messy and further nothing has changed since it was a brothel, except the fact that now you can see a couple of guys playing a radio station behind the windows, in stead of some women. Just another placeholder, no upgrade.

Oudekerksplein 26
Before: Brothel with 6 prostitution windows in a small court yard. Completely unknown how much was paid for this, or who the owner was, so guessing how much they paid for it is difficult, but could range around 2-3 million euro.
After: Right now it's nothing. The gate towards the court yard is closed, and nobody ever goes in. What once was a place for women to work in, has now become a forgotten piece of Amsterdam. No visitors, no workplaces, simply nothing. Is this what was worth over a million euro? To have nobody use it at all? Is this an upgrade? I don't think so, and it certainly isn't a 'high class establishment'.

Oudekerksplein 30
Before: Brothel with 3 prostitution windows. Unknown who owned it or what was paid for it. But based on the other prices probably around 1,5 million euro.
After: Some kind of shop. It's located next to the PIC where I frequently come, but I still don't know what they do in here. Often it's closed, like now when we took this picture at 2 pm in the afternoon. And sometimes it's open, although few people go in there, I can tell from standing next to it for hours already. I doubt this shop is making enough money to survive on it's on. I think like many of the other buildings, the people running this shop aren't paying the full rent, and are just placeholders until real investors show up one day. So I'm not sure if you can call it an upgrade, and inside it's too empty looking for me to call it a 'high class establishment', but I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Before: Brothel with unknown amount of prostitution windows in this small alley. Unknown how much was paid for it.
After: This alley which used to have a couple of windows is now completely forgotten. I didn't even knew anything was here until we started to research it. The closed gate makes sure nobody ever comes here. A forgotten piece of Amsterdam what once used to be women's workplace. Not an improvement, but a downgrade as you can see. And certainly not very high class.

All pictures were taken on a regular Friday afternoon at 2 pm, a normal time for any shop to be open, and for people to visit the area, especially in the center of Amsterdam. Like always the streets with prostitution were filled with people, averaging from 10-25 people per street, the areas with little to no prostitution were much more quiet with often hardly any people at all. Where prostitution draws in many people, men but also many women interestingly enough, the new businesses that are supposed to 'upgrade' the Red Light District were often empty or even closed at 2 pm in the afternoon!
 Where there's window brothels open, there are much more people