We must be honest about prostitution reality: Amsterdam official

The Netherlands often deals with prostitution by turning a blind eye to the ‘raw reality’, Amsterdam council executive Lodewijk Asscher says in an interview with Trouw on Friday.

Many opinion writers and officials ‘deny’ that there are problems and believe the sex industry is well ordered, he said. But there is a ‘collective silence’ about the truth, he said, referring to forced prostitution and human trafficking.
For years Asscher has been involved in efforts to clean up Amsterdam’s notorious red light district by reducing the number of buildings licenced for prostitution and trying to combat crime.
According to some police experts, between 50% and 90% of the prostitutes working in the area have been forced into it, even in officially-licenced brothels and clubs.
Asscher told Trouw that people who criticise or object to prostitution are often dismissed as being ‘too proper’ or ‘prudish’.
‘But talking about human trafficking has nothing to do with being prudish,’ he said. ‘It is a national mistake to think that the way we deal with prostitution should be considered part of our tradition of freedom, happiness and tolerance. That is not the reality.’
Asscher said the new prostitution law, which the senate will debate in the coming weeks, is the last chance for the sector to get its house in order. Otherwise we should look to the Swedish model, where the client not the prostitute is committing a criminal offence, he said.
The new law involves setting up an official register of prostitutes.
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