Sunday 26 January 2020

Big cities worried that new sex work law could harm ‘vulnerable’ sex workers

Five major Dutch cities are concerned that a proposed law to regulate sex work nationally could have negative consequences for ‘vulnerable’ groups.

The mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Groningen have submitted an official reaction to the new law’s online consultation raising their worries. Although they welcome better regulation ‘to regulate the sex trade and fight human trafficking’, they fear that a national registration scheme for all prostitutes and businesses involved in sex work could be counterproductive in some cases.

‘Our concerns are not so much about the group of self-reliant, independent sex workers who work in the licensed sector or earn extra income by offering these services from their own homes (as long as they don’t cause any nuisance),’ reads the reaction of the five cities.

‘They are related to people in vulnerable situations, who are less independent or not independent at all and might also perform sex work against their will, regardless of where they work (at a home or in a sex establishment). It is with these people that abuses occur more often, and efforts must be made to reach out to them.’

The mayors believe that the new sex work law – which would criminalise unlicensed sex workers, the customers of unlicensed sex workers as well as their employers – offers ‘insufficient improvements’ for vulnerable sex workers.

‘It could even be counterproductive, making this group further hidden from view, unreachable for care and in an even more vulnerable position,’ they add.

The mayors believe that individual sex workers must be contacted to apply for their licenses, ‘misunderstandings’ must be raised and addressed through the enforcement and supervision system, and that more research should be done on people working without authorisation. They also want care and help to be available for licensed and unlicensed workers, and a ‘duty of care’ for sex businesses to employ independent and self-reliant sex workers.

Permit

It is unclear currently, they say, how sex workers would apply for their new permit, and they believe the law should be amended to make this more explicit. The new law would also ban sex work for those under 21.

So far 109 online reactions to the proposed law have been made public, including strong reactions from sex workers such as Irina Hornstra asking for the law to be withdrawn. Campaign group SekswerkExpertise organisation claims the law aims to ‘combat sex work, making it as difficult as possible’ and will make sex workers ‘more vulnerable to coercion, violence and discrimination.’

A spokesman for the justice ministry said that the consultation period would end on 15th December, and then the law proposal would go back to the cabinet and then follow the usual legal process.

DutchNews.nl has contacted Amsterdam city council – which is conducting a major review of its red light district and published the letter – for a comment.

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