Amsterdam’s Red light District Is on the Decline

Four young man in warm jackets jog, standing at a glass-case and attracting the attention of the girls in lacy underwear behind the glass.

“It’s all good-humored raillery. Even they know what raillery is, tells me one of the men, pointing his hand to the brothel. –They know about Englishmen. We spend much money on them”.

But many women, selling their bodies, face the challenge when they find it difficult to attract clients due to the tourists who stand opposite the glass-cases and take selfie on their phones. Actually the tourists are more interested in taking photos than buying sex services.

The first woman in Amsterdam who became the Mayor of the city tries to find a solution to this problem. Femke Halsema is preparing a few initiatives that will help protect the sex workers from the cameras.

“It is the largest free amusement park in the whole Amsterdam,” Fritz Rauwut says, a local, leading me along the web of the paved side streets. Many prostitutes recognize him and affably wave their hand.

Fritz has a book store in Red Light District, and he often invites the ladies of pleasure to drink a cup of coffee, so that they can for some time divert their attention from insults and threats that they constantly hear in the street.

‘They have no place to run away, - he says. – To earn for their living, they have to stand in the glass-cases, a great number of men come to see them. The men are from England, Scotland, Ireland. As a rule, they are drunk, they shout and try to take photos”.

My Children Know What I Do

The girls try to hide their faces, when tourists take out their smartphones. Most of them conceal their activity from the relatives and friends. If their photos appear in social networks, their families can reject them, having leant the truth.

Christina opens the door, shivering with cold because of freezing wind, blowing round her bare stomach.

She blows out a cigarette, reduces the loudness of a video clip in the telephone and leads me along a short passage into a small, white room. It is warm there, аnd the environment can be called ascetic: a mirror, black mattress, hygienic antiseptic gel, alarm button and soft slippers.

“I don’t like to sell my body, but I have to,” she says.

Christina has been working in Red Light District for 10 years. Her friend from Hungary, who earned the whole fortune in the sex industry of Amsterdam, advised her to work as a prostitute. She takes 100 euro for half an hour and 150 euro for an hour from her clients.

“I ‎save up for my two children. For their future. They live with my mother in Hungary. The children don’t know how I earn money”.

Christina doesn’t wish to give up her work. It brings her a good income, even in spite of the bothersome tourists.

She speaks Dutch well. According to her, she hasn’t a pander, and she sells her body because it brings easy money. And here she feels herself safer.

The Mayor Halsema subjected to the public gaze an idea to let prostitutes work outside the claustrophobic Red Light District, for this they would need to get a special permission.

But many of those who connected with the sex industry apprehend that such a measure will make some women work illegally.

“Amsterdam is called a capital of prostitution, - Karin Werkman, helping the victims of sexual exploitation, says. – It will strengthen the status even more. There will be more prostitutes in private houses, at hotels. Women will be unnoticeable”.

“If to open the rest part of the city for prostitution, it will attract the movement of other kind to Amsterdam. Cars will whirl in the streets, men will bother women, asking their price… And this will only intensify the sexual exploitation. We shouldn’t underestimate how it will affect the city,” she notices.

The authorities tried to clean up De Wallen – so Red Light District is called, when the city council bought out the brothels from panders and then offered the apartments to start-ups and artists for lease.

Nobody knows for sure how many women work in the sex industry of the city. They say it is a dark figure.

“The authorities of Amsterdam assure that they control everything, but we even don’t know how many girls work here,” Fritz Rauwut notices.

“By one count, there are 4 thousand of them, by the other one - 8 thousand. Somebody says that 10% of them work against their will, others say - 90%. Even if to take the lowest indicators, it turns out that 400 girls sell their body unwillingly. In fact, they are raped every day. If they disappear in the other districts of the city, they won’t live better,” he says.

At Night the District Turns into a Jungle

It is expected that the initiatives of the Mayor Femke Halsema will be published till the end of the year.

In particular, she offers to increase the number of police patrols, introduce the system of fines for tourists and to use the “red code” regime, that is the notification that the historic district will be closed when there are too many people in it.

The ombudsmen of Amsterdam Arre Zyurmond says that at night the district turns into a jungle. He offers to enter the age limit for its visit and reduce the number of budgetary flights to the local airport Schiphol.

There are people who think that the existence of the legal sex zone takes the women down to the level of the object and makes them vulnerable.

“At the bottom of our heart we understand that prostitution brings harm to the women – physically and emotionally, when they need to have sex with strangers,” Karin Werkman says.

She believes that when a state provides favorable conditions for running the sex business because women don’t have to pass a registration and pay taxes, it actually becomes a pander.

It seems that nowadays the city council in the first place strives to defend the work of the prostitutes.

On many windows there is the plate “Te Huur” (for rent). The business moves to the Internet. The sites, offering sex for money, give the women an opportunity to advertise their services, and not placing themselves in public view.

And if Red Light District is a jungle, then on the Internet the laws are violated in a greater degree.

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