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