Amsterdam may go it alone on prostitution policy, increase age to 21

Amsterdam is considering going it alone in tightening its control of the sex industry after efforts to reach a new strategy at national level appear to have failed.

In particular, the city is considering raising the legal age to become a prostitute from 18 to 21 and introducing a language test.

‘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,’ a council spokesman told the Parool.

The proposals will be discussed by the city council executive next week, says the Parool. In order to make them legally binding, they will be incorporated into local by-laws.


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.

Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan has written to justice minister Ivo Opstelten urging him to enact the non-controversial aspects of the legislation, such as a higher age limit and a register of illegal escort agencies.

‘We need national rules as soon as possible to be able to combat people trafficking,’ Van der Laan said in his letter.


Earlier this week it emerged MPs from the ruling Labour party and opposition ChristenUnie are visiting Sweden to assess prostitution policy there. In Sweden it is illegal to visit a sex worker.

Amsterdam has an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 sex workers, 90% of whom are female. The percentage of people forced into prostitution ranges from 10% to 90%.

Prostitution in the Netherlands was legalised in 2000 but experts agree this has not solved the many problems in the sex industry, particularly in forced prostitution. In particular eastern European prostitutes are said to be at risk of exploitation.

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