Wednesday 26 February 2020

Leeuwarden sex workers are unregistered, invisible and at risk


A lack of control has turned Leeuwarden’s red light district into ‘the cesspit’ of Dutch legal prostitution, sources have told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.

Nieuwsuur found that prostitutes in the Frisian capital, often from other countries, are largely unregistered and invisible to the authorities making them vulnerable to abuse, unsafe working conditions and possible human trafficking.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands as long as it concerns sex between consenting adults. However, there is as yet no national law regulating prostitution and local councils have their own sets of rules, which, Nieuwsuur found, show important differences.

This is particularly the case in the north of the Netherlands which traditionally has a large concentration of sex workers.

Groningen has had rules in place since 2016 which oblige the women to register as local residents. They are also required to register as a freelancer at the chamber of commerce and pay tax.

The authorities in Leeuwarden, however, only check the licences of the brothel owners and have no contact with the prostitutes. On reaching the age of 21 women can immediately start work in one of the 130 rooms available for prostitution in the town.

‘I have come to Leeuwarden because I don’t need papers,’ one prostitute told the programme. ‘I work here seven days a week for two months, then I go home for a while. My husband thinks I work in a hotel.’


One of the four brothel owners in Leeuwarden said he could not say if any of the sex workers operating on his premises were registered or paid tax. Nieuwsuur found women to work on the black and for less than the minimum rate of €35, often without using a condom. A lack of accommodation means women often sleep in a communal bedroom in the brothel.

The lack of controls by the authorities increases the risk of exploitation, particularly women vulnerable to trafficking and who are in the hands of pimps,’ Salvation Army spokesperson Ineke van Buren told the programme.

Mayor Sybrand Buma of Leeuwarden has said in a reaction to the programme that Leeuwarden will adjust the rules for prostitution in the town. He said he would discourage human trafficking and change the local authority bylaws to include checks on registration. has been free for 13 years, but now we are asking our readers to help. Your donation will enable us to keep providing you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch.
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