Tuesday 17 May 2022

Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

Mayor Femke Halsema. Photo: Gemeente Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’.

The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable.

‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said.

There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking.

Halsema said Amsterdam’s tradition of open prostitution was ‘increasingly linked to the humiliation of women by large groups of tourists’. She plans to draw up a package of measures before the summer to address the red light district’s problems.

‘Meat market’

‘I find it unpalatable. First and foremost we need to ensure that they are more independent and empowered, and are not being abused or used as commodities.’

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of young political activists went further with an open letter demanding an end to the ‘public meat market’ in the red light district.

The group, which spans the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA), the progressive liberal D66 group and the right-wng liberal VVD, said the exploitation of sex workers had gone too far. Their proposed solutions include requiring women to have lived in the Netherlands for at least a year before they can work legally as prostitutes.

In an opinion piece titled ‘Enough is enough, take action in the Wallen‘, they wrote: ‘We, the youth of Amsterdam, have come to the conclusion that regardless of your point of view on sex work, the current situation cannot be justified.

‘Whether your view of the value of human life is based on humanitarian or confessional ideas, this circus, this public meat market, is humiliating.’


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