Amsterdam authorities say they are to halve the number of brothels and marijuana shops in the city's red light district and surrounding area.
The city announced plans to clean up the area a year ago and since then 109 sex windows , from which prostitutes attract customers, have been closed. The new measures aim to reduce the number of windows to 243 from 482 last year, a city
Amsterdam also wants to close half of the 76 cannabis shops in the city centre.
The deputy mayor of Amsterdam Lodewijk Asscher told Reuters: We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control.
The 800-year-old red light district needs to diversify and showcase the city's history, Asscher said: This is a nice, old part of town. We can attract different groups of tourists. You should be able to have a beer at the old church
square, watch fashion, and visit Chinatown .
Visiting illegal prostitutes will be punishable by up to six months in jail if cabinet plans to reform the law on prostitution go through.
In addition, all companies involved in the sex industry – from escort bureaus and sex theatres to massage salons – will have to get an official licence to operate. At the moment only brothels require licences.
Local councils will also be able to say where and if sex companies can be situated.
The proposals, drawn up by home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst and injustice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, have been circulated to police, justice ministry officials, the tax office and other interested parties for their comments.
The proposal does not include a rise in the minimum age for prostitutes from 18 to 21, but this still may be an option, the ministers said.
Many prostitutes are seeing red over the planned closure of many of the brothels.
Many of the girls are from Eastern Europe while others are native Dutch.
We will fight this attack on our livelihood, we will use legal means, we have a right to make a living and we don't want to be crowded into a reduced number of brothels or forced out remarked one working girl in the area that identified
herself as Annia.
Already a number of civil rights and liberal groups are planning to support the working girls in their fight to oppose the closures. This has to do with Bible-bashers in government a reference to the Christian Democrat party that are part
of Holland's ruling coalition. This is an assault on modern values and has nothing to do with cleaning up the city one activist commented.
We will oppose this and offer all assistance to the women affected by this regressive plan. We know the girls of De Wallen and we are aware of their inner strength. Many people oppose this, some are also worried about Amsterdam's tourist
industry going up in smoke.
Some tourists are concerned as well I've been coming here for years and if this place get's closed down it will be a pity, look at drab, boring Britain: do you want to become like that? asks Ian, a tourist from Leeds in the UK.
A 'offee drinker with the glazed eyes said: This is an attack on the very essence of Amsterdam, and the essence of being Dutch.
Half of Amsterdam's prostitute windows must be closed, the mayor has told The Times.
The Continent's most open red-light district, which sprawls over Amsterdam's historic canal district, will be reduced to two main streets under a dramatic downsizing plan drawn up by Job Cohen, the city's mayor.
Cohen, who is also closing a fifth of the city's cannabis cafés and a number of sex clubs. He claims that he wants Amsterdam to become better known for its art, chamber music and museums rather than as a hotspot for sex and drugs.
There are currently more than 400 of the distinctive neon-lit prostitute windows from where scantily clad women beckon passers-by and about 70 coffee shops selling ready-rolled cannabis joints.
The tolerance, which we in Amsterdam are proud of, is not the same as indifference, said Cohen, the former Rector of Maastricht University, who resigned as the Deputy Justice Minister in Wim Kok's Labour Government to become mayor of the
city in 2001.
The prostitutes' union, the Red Thread, has accused Cohen of using a crackdown on criminal activity as an excuse to close the windows and reverse years of tolerance. It has been drawn up at the same time as the Government is taking a tougher line
on soft drugs, banning the sale of magic mushrooms and forcing the closure of all coffee shops near schools, as the Netherlands rethinks its anything-goes attitudes.
The union argues that the prostitute windows are much safer because women can deal with clients directly without having to rely on pimps.
The decision to shut down the designated street prostitution zone in Eindhoven in 2011 is coming up against criticism and incomprehension among prostitutes. These ladies must be helped out of their dead-end situation, says the alderman.
Then I'll go back to illegal soliciting, says one prostitute.
By Esther Wittenberg
Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000 and six years ago Eindhoven opened a designated street prostitution area. The aim was to put an end to the nuisance caused by street prostitution in the working class area of Woensel West.
Used condoms were being thrown into front gardens, cars were cruising around the area at night, and neighbourhood girls were being asked how much they charged. Thirty prostitutes with addiction problems were given a pass that allowed them to work
in the special designated zone. The aim was also to provide addicted street prostitutes with better healthcare.
A sitting room facility was provided were prostitutes could shower, wash their clothes and get ready for work. Condoms, clean needles and coffee were provided. People from the Salvation Army spoke with the women, a doctor examined the women, and
police kept an eye on the situation. The nuisance was reduced and the women's health improved
Although the street prostitution zone has succeeded at virtually all its aims, according to an evaluation, the municipality wants to shut it down in 2011. In the next three years, aided by assistance workers, all the addicted prostitutes must
become independent of the drug dealers and pimps. Alderman Mariët Mittendorff: We do not want to facilitate these women in remaining in their dead-end situation. We would rather offer them a dignified existence.
Opinions on street prostitution zones vary throughout the country. Amsterdam shut its zone down in 2003. Rotterdam and The Hague followed suit in 2006. The argument for closing the zones was that they attracted drug dealers and human trafficking.
The street prostitution zones are still open in Utrecht, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Heerlen and Groningen.
The Dutch government does not plan to raise the minimum prostitution age from 18 to 21, the Telegraaf has reported.
Reliable sources have told the paper that justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has decided that there would be too much opposition to an increase and it would drive younger prostitutes into the illegal circuit.
Meanwhile, the AD reports that the recession is beginning to have an affect on Amsterdam's red light district, with prostitutes reporting a sharp fall in clients and demands for cheaper prices.
Beate Uhse, the German sex empire that is now largely in Dutch hands, says a publicity campaign is needed to attract more foreign tourists to Amsterdam's Red Light District'.
The company, that sells sex toys, lingerie, clothing and pornography, claims Project 1012 has severely damaged its business. Project 1012, named after the postal code of the Red Light District, is an attempt by the Amsterdam authorities to curb
prostitution in the area. It involves the closing of dozens of window brothels.
Beate Uhse owns ten shops in Amsterdam, most of which are located in the sex district. CEO Serge van der Hooft said that the area has been a major tourist attraction: But these days many foreign tourists seem to think that the Red Light
District is no more.
The Amsterdam city authorities were on the verge of shutting down landmark erotic theatre Casa Rosso in the red light district. Owner Jan Otten resisted - and won.
Jan Otten is the face of the Amsterdam red light district. His erotic theatre Casa Rosso is the most prominent landmark in the historic area of window prostitutes, sex shops and cannabis selling coffee shops. Its illuminated facade has
appeared on TV shows across the world and Otten has contracts with 180 travel organisations.
Otten prefers to sit behind the till himself, welcoming guests to the shows, which feature intercourse on the stage.
It was world news therefore when it was announced three years ago that Otten's businesses were being shut down by the municipality. In addition to Casa Rosso, Otten owns the Banana bar and a number of peep shows and sex shops in Amsterdam's red
light district. On Tuesday it was disclosed that Otten will after all be granted his entertainment and operating licences from the municipality of Amsterdam, after a long legal battle.
The national Bibob agency, which supervises the integrity of licensees, had advised against Otten's retaining his licences. It alleged Otten had connections with criminal circles and that criminal money may have been laundered via Casa Rosso.
At first I thought it was a comedy, Otten said. I said: go ahead and look into it, none of those stories about criminal money are true. I've done nothing wrong. But when the licences were not forthcoming, it turned into a very
bad movie. Once, when he got into an argument with one of his employees, he thought about selling the whole damn business .
Shutting down his windows became part of the city's plans to close brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes to drive organised crime out of the tourist haven. The Bibob agency connected Otten with laundering ransom money that had been paid in the
1983 for kidnapped beer magnate Freddy Heineken. Those stories were quickly refuted, Otten said. Nonetheless the investigation took a very long time because not all of his investments were transparent.
In the meantime Casa Rosso suffered under the threat of closure. I have had a great deal of trouble from all the stories that have come out since 2007. Whether involving human trafficking or forced prostitution, Casa Rosso is brought into the
picture in all the stories about abuses in the red light district. And I have nothing to do with that, Otten said.
And then there are the costs he has had to incur to secure his licence. All those lawyers and advisers. It certainly cost a million euros. For a licence. That ruins a business owner, Otten said. In retrospect I do have the feeling that
they wanted to ruin me.
Clients of unlicensed prostitutes in the Netherlands may in future risk prosecution under a proposed new law, the cabinet said.
The draft law, yet to be approved by parliament, will make it compulsory for prostitutes to go through a registration process.
Municipalities will decide how many brothels to allow in their borders, and where.
Prostitutes will become liable for prosecution if they work without the required registration, or in a business with no permit, said the statement.
Clients who make use of the services of illegal prostitutes can be prosecuted, because by doing so they help sustain a form of prostitution in which abuses and exploitation are more difficult to prevent.
Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000, but only brothels and businesses letting out streetside windows to prostitutes have hitherto required municipal authorisation.
Amsterdam and prostitution have for a long time been bedfellows and the city's red light district attracts thousands of tourists who come to take advantages of the liberal laws. But these thrill seekers may soon have to get their kicks elsewhere,
because the Dutch government wants to criminalise sex tourism.
The Netherlands has proposed a Prostitution Regulation Law targeting both those who buy sex as well as those who sell it. Lawmakers say it will identify women who are forced into the industry against their will.
At the moment only prostitutes who work in brothels require a license – many choose to work as escorts or provide services from their homes instead. Under the new law, all women working in the industry would be forced to register, and their
details will be available to the police and justice department.
The idea has caused concern in a number of organisations, including the Red Thread, which represents sex workers. Jan Fisher is its chairman: It will be the reverse. The ones who want to work know how devastating the stigma could be, and will
be. They will try to work outside this system and they'll be vulnerable when they're detected by the police and tax office, and the ones who are trafficked may be forced by their pimps to register so they have a kind of legal status.
Another major fear is that the Netherlands will move towards a Swedish model, where it is a crime for men to visit prostitutes. Pye Jakobsson, who has worked in the Swedish sex industry for several years, says the Dutch plan is even more
stupid than the restrictive regime she works under: The Swedish experience tells us that if you're vulnerable or under the radar – as you will be if you're unregistered – you're more prone to meet dangerous clients as the good ones, the
decent ones, who will want to buy sex from registered workers. And there will be women, for one reason or another, who don't want to register and they won't have the choice to say 'no' to bad clients.
Increase in violence Pye believes there will be an increase in violence against sex workers if the law is introduced in the Netherlands and is urging lawmakers to rethink the plans. If the idea is to combat people trafficking, she says, the
government should use existing labour laws. Pye argues most women in the trade do the job through choice.
Amsterdam Councillor Lodewijk Asscher has launched a plan to raise the minimum age of prostitutes from 18 to 23. Asscher wants to 'clean up' Amsterdam's Red Light district and is proposing a whole raft of measures. In addition to raising the
minimum age, he also wants the red light district in the Wallen area to close down between 04:00 and 08:00 in the morning.
Speaking to Dutch daily De Telegraaf, the councillor denied that he wants to turn Amsterdam into a prudish bourgeois paradise. Look, Amsterdam is a metropolis and prostitution is part of that. There is nothing against prostitution if the women
are doing it of their own free will ...BUT... there are many of examples where that is not the case. Imagine it's your mother or your sister working as a prostitute.
Asscher's proposal will probably be presented to the city council after the 3 March municipal elections, so the plan is in the hands of the voters.
Sex workers in the Netherlands must be at least 21 years old and carry a pass with their photo and a special registration number, says a law amendment just filed in parliament.
People of 21 are better able than people of 18 to make a well-considered decision about whether or not to work as a prostitute, caretaker injustice minister Hirsch Ballin, who submitted the amendment, said in a statement: They are
better able to deal and negotiate with clients. They are more likely to have some further education and thus be less economically dependent on prostitution work.
The amendment, yet to be adopted by parliament, will compel prostitutes to enrol on a national register and to have an entry interview on the risks of the job and alternatives, said the statement.
Registered prostitutes will receive a pass with a profile photograph and registration number, which will enable clients to control that they are using the services of a legal practitioner. Under the current law, only brothel owners and other
prostitute handlers require authorisation
Update: Further Details of the registration scheme
Prostitutes have to be at least 21 years of age. This is Minister Hirsch Ballin's (the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Justice) proposal to the Lower House in an amendment to the legislative proposal already before the Lower
House concerning the regulation of prostitution and sex businesses. Persons aged 21 are better able to make a well-considered decision about working as a prostitute than people aged 18; they are also more resilient as regards handling and
negotiating with clients. Moreover, they will more often have finished an education and therefore economically less dependent on work in prostitution. Municipalities will have to conduct a substantive interview with each prostitute at the time of
their registration or extension thereof.
Initially, the Dutch government chose an age limit of 18, in view of the risk that prostitutes aged between 18 and 21 would disappear into illegality. Minister Hirsch Ballin wants to combat this with strict checks and making
illegal prostitutes, operators and their clients punishable.
Prostitutes will have to register in a national register. Upon registration, an interview has to be conducted with each prostitute concerning the risks of the business, health care and assistance, social security, insurance
and possibilities to leave the world of prostitution. During such an interview, any abuses can be discussed and forwarded to the police and welfare services. Registration will only be possible in 25 to 35 larger communities throughout the
Netherlands in view of the fact that conducting this type of interview requires the necessary expertise on the part of the civil servants. Registered prostitutes will receive a pass with their picture and registration number (but without their
name). Clients have to check whether they are dealing with a legal prostitute by means of the pass. It is the intention that clients can establish via the Internet whether the registration number advertised by the prostitute actually exists.
There is a taboo on prostitution although it is legal in the Netherlands. Anonymity and privacy are therefore very important for prostitutes. Only a small number of supervision officials and the police will have access to
the national register of prostitutes. The register will also not be linked to other IT systems (such as the Tax and Customs Administration). The details of prostitutes who retire are immediately removed from the register.
Brothels and other sex businesses (clubs, escort services, sex cinemas, massage parlours) are required to have a licence. Municipalities determine via licences where and how many brothels or other sex businesses there will
be. As regards brothels and escort companies, a municipality can elect not to allow any company, the so-called zero option. The municipality does need to have supportive arguments for choosing this option that are related to public order, safety
or public health. Moral arguments should not play a role.
The licences for prostitution companies will include conditions on health, safety and the right to self-determination of prostitutes. This will strengthen their position. Prostitution companies will require a permanent
address with a fixed telephone line for a licence. The licences of escort services will be entered in a national registers which will create supervision of this part of the industry.
Clients who make use of illegal prostitution will become punishable because they maintain a type of prostitution where forms of abuse and exploitation can easily occur. The prohibition on the operation of a prostitution
company without a licence and registration duty for prostitution creates a clear division between legal and illegal prostitution. That division is also recognisable for clients.
The act is intended to regulate the prostitution industry, not to obstruct the legal part of the industry. The new act is also intended to make a contribution to combating abuses such as coercion, abuse and human
Punishment of violations
Prostitute without registration or working in a brothel without a licence: A fine of at most 380 euros *
Clients who visit unregistered prostitutes or unlicensed brothels: A fine of at most 7,600 euros or a term of imprisonment of at most 6 months *
Sex business without a licence or violation of the statutory rules: A fine of at most 18,500 euros or a term of imprisonment of at most two years
Government plans to introduce a special register of prostitutes are running into trouble in parliament, with MPs from the ruling right-wing VVD also having doubts, news agency ANP reports.
In particular, MPs say there are legal questions over the privacy of prostitutes and fears that it will drive them into the illegal sector. VVD MPs are also concerned about the cost of the registration system and regulation, ANP said.
The Dutch government is looking at new ways to cut the country's budget deficit. It's hoping to tap in to an industry that generates billions of euros a year by bringing in a new plan to make prostitutes pay taxes like everyone else.
Officials have traditionally treated prostitutes with a little more leniency on taxation than other workers. But the industry generates about 625m euros per year. And with thousands of potential added taxpayers, the authorities are now planning
to pursue them for the average 33% tax that until now many have managed to avoid.
Prostitution was legalised in Amsterdam in 2000 and sex workers are now classed as self-employed businesswomen.
Nowadays, around three-quarters of the women who work in Amsterdam's sex industry are from Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia. Many of them fly in for a couple of months and fly out again, without anyone - other than their clients - ever knowing they
As part of the tax service's new tactics, officials are touring the red-light district, checking that the girls know that they are meant to be paying tax and making sure they've filled in all the proper forms.
Sex businesses in the famous Amsterdam Red Light district De Wallen must in future be closed after 10.00 p.m. The sex business owners have lost their appeal against the decision of the city council to introduce the closing times.
For 40 years, it was tolerated that brothels, peep shows and sex shops in the Red Light district could stay open until 2.00 a.m. At the beginning of the current year, however, the city council decided that the Shop Opening Times Act had to be
enforced ant all sex shops had to close at 10.00pm.
Fourteen owners of 23 sex shops brought a case against the city council, but saw their argument rejected. With the appeal court ruling the collective route is now closed. Individually, a business can however still look and see if it is
possible to remain open for longer, said lawyer Rob IJsendijk.
Pope Benedict praised the Dutch government for tackling drug abuse and prostitution while warning against too liberal an approach which could see individuals harm society.
He somehow omitted to mention the enormous amount of harm caused by his own 'no sex' approach, both to his own priests, and to the young victims abused by the priests who get screwed up the 'no sex' approach.
Addressing the new Netherlands ambassador to the Vatican, Benedict said he was
encouraged by the steps that the Dutch government has taken to discourage drug abuse and prostitution. While your nation has long championed the freedom of individuals to make their own choices, those choices by which people inflict harm on
themselves or others must be discouraged, for the good of individuals or society as a whole.
However he did admit to there being a problem with the priesthood but somehow sees the problems as priests not being able to live up to the rules, rather than the rules themselves being the problem.
The pope said the Roman Catholic Church recognises with humility that her own members do not always live up to the high moral standards that she proposes but urged all people to act in accordance with justice and right reason .
The pope then warned that religious freedom is threatened not only by legal constraints in some parts of the world, but by an anti-religious mentality within many societies , and called on the government to be vigilant .
Well if he is going to praise those who remove people's freedom and enjoyment of life, then he should expect the deserved 'anti-religious mentality' to continue unabated.
For several years now, the young (37) Amsterdam alderman Lodewijk Asscher has been waging his own crusade against sex workers in Amsterdam. He claims: We have to abandon our romantic view of the red light district.
For many tourists the red light district is a normal stop on their visit to Amsterdam, taking a look at the prostitutes posing in the windows to attract clients. For many visitors the red lights are a symbol of what is possible in the
Netherlands, with its tolerant attitude to sex and drugs.
The Dutch government decided to lift the ban on prostitution in 2000. The introduction of licencing was intended to improve the position of prostitutes.
Hard line Alderman Asscher is politically responsible for the red light district. He regularly makes comments regarded as un-Dutch . He believes it is a national misconception that prostitution belongs in the compass of freedom and
tolerance. The problems, he claims, are grossly underestimated:
Hard-line criminal behaviour is what is happening behind those windows. Women subjected to extremes of exploitation. They have a non-existent debt they have to pay to a pimp by prostituting themselves. They are physically abused if they don't
work hard enough.
It's very difficult to tackle effectively. Very frustrating for the police and the courts. The penalties are often minor. There is also an absence of public indignation. Recently we were dealing with a pimp who had used violent methods to force
110 women into work. The only sign of public anger was when the man escaped.
In his capacity as alderman, he has introduced a number of measures aimed at reducing window prostitution. Amsterdam has been buying up properties previously owned by the sex industry. In February this year more than 60 addresses lost their
prostitution designations. The council is rezoning the whole area. In the future, brothels and coffeeshops will make way for cafes, restaurants and ordinary shops.
Over the next few weeks the Senate will be debating a new prostitution bill. Proposals include discriminating against youg adults by making the minimum age for registered prostitutes 21 instead of 18.
Having sex with a prostitute living in the Netherlands illegally would become a criminal offence.
It's now or never, threatens Lodewijk Asscher. If it can't be regulated, prostitution will have to be made illegal again.
Amsterdam city council's marketing department should stop promoting the red light district as an exciting tourist attraction, a Christian Democratic councillor has said.
Encouraging tourists to visit the area ignores the problems associated with prostitution and tourists should be told the truth about the position of sex workers , CDA councillor Marijke Shahasavari is quoted as saying.
Amsterdam's promotional website Iamsterdam recommends the evening as the best time to visit this famous part of Amsterdam. The website states:
Prostitution has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance in Amsterdam and, as with soft drugs, the Netherlands approach is to legalise the trade and impose regulations.' In addition to preventing forced prostitution, this open and honest approach
means sex-workers here have their own union, plenty of police protection, an information centre (for visitors as well), frequent monitoring and testing and professional standards.
Amsterdam City Council has decided to rezone large sections of De Wallen, as it is known in Dutch, and shut down and evict brothels and other sex businesses which fail to co-operate.
The get-tough policy will come into effect in parallel with a new law banning tourists from the city's coffee shops , where cannabis and other drugs can be bought and consumed legally. The law is in force in Maastricht, and will apply
nationwide from January 1st next.
The miserable deputy mayor, Lodewijk Asscher, who is overseeing the anti-sex work campaign, said the red light area's enormous value made a legal challenge inevitable. He said:
De Wallen is big business, and sex industry bosses are always ready for a fight. Even before the outline zoning proposals were completed, we were aware that lawyers had been briefed and were preparing to pick holes in them wherever possible.
The district currently has 400 red-light windows, and Asscher said that should be reduced by 100 by 2017.
Netherland's 'Justice' minister Ivo Opstelten is to revise some aspects of new restrictions on prostitution following concerns from the upper house of parliament.
Senators are concerned about how effective the law will be in practice, Nos television says.
The aim of the legislation is to repress prostitution by imposing a licencing system and setting up an official register of prostitutes.
The legislation will also ludicrously require customers to make sure they are visiting a legal prostitute. If the customer fails to check and the prostitute is unregistered he will have committed a criminal offence and could be fined.
This is the second time the senate has delayed the legislation, Nos says. Earlier senators wanted more information about the data protection aspects of the new law and the implications of human rights legislation.
Amsterdam moralists of the local council are considering going it alone with repressive attacks on the sex industry after efforts to get their way at that national level appear to have failed.
In particular, the council is considering raising the legal age to become a prostitute from 18 to 21 and introducing a language test. A council spokesman claimed:
A language test is important because it will not only enable the prostitute to speak to police and social workers but take care of herself in an emergency situation.
The proposals will be discussed by the city council executive next week.
The upper house of parliament is currently considering legislation which would require all prostitutes to register as sex workers. It would force clients to check whether the prostitute is registered or not. Both these requirements have come in
for heavy criticism.
PC extremists on Amsterdam Council have voted to increase the legal age for prostitution from 18 to 21 as part of a series of new regulations aimed at repressing the sex industr.
The city council decision will be now be written into local bylaws, along with closing hours for brothels and red-light windows between 4am and 9am. Dutch language tests will also be introduced for the same reason. A council
Younger women tend to be more vulnerable. This is part of a set of measures designed to tackle abuse in the sex industry, and strengthen the independence of prostitutes. The logic of the language tests is the same: if women get into trouble,
they need to be able to communicate.
In addition brothel managers will have to produce business plans which show how health and safety regulations, particularly in relation to working hours, are being applied to their employees. If they are renting windows to individual
prostitutes, the businesses will have to produce contracts showing the price being paid and any other conditions.