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Dutch News

17 February 2014

In the monthly newsletter the Dutch Association for Relaxing Companies (VER) complains about the fact that local Christian parties misuses prostitution to gain votes in their campaign for the upcoming local elections on March 19. They want to help prostitutes by a total ban on prostitution and by making visiting a prostitute an offence. Is the criminalisation of sex buyers becoming a new trend in Europe?


In France the prostitution ban is a fact now and some larger Belgian cities expressed their worries about the expected influx of French looking for prostitutes in Belgium. As a result the opponents in Belgium also expressed their wish to follow the European example and also ban prostitution in Belgium. The first serious controls already took place in cities like Gent and Brussels. Also in the Netherlands there is an initiative to force the government to discuss a possible total prostitution ban in the Netherlands. Half of the needed 40.000 signatures are collected.

At the same time erotic museums pop up in Amsterdam. After the opening of the Yab Yum museum, a museum in a former brothel, also the Red Lights Secrets, Museum of Prostitution just opened in the middle of the red light district. While more and more prostitution windows are closed in Amsterdam, 'the tourists can luckily still see how the well-known prostitution area was in the old days'.

After years of closing down prostitution windows in Amsterdam and plans for more restrictions, Geisha, a new pressure group for prostitutes is erected. At a hearing of the Parliamentary Network 'Women Free from Violence' last year, the Stockholm Police presented the consequences of Sweden’s Sex Purchase Act of 1999, which makes it illegal to purchase sexual services but not to sell them. According to Simon Häggström,  a police officer from the Prostitution Unit of the Stockholm Police, the biggest problem related to prostitution and trafficking is the demand. Indeed, if there is no demand for sexual services, there is no market for it. And this is why, by decreasing the number of sex clients, the Swedish law has also resulted in a decrease in prostitution according to official figures. 'How can it be free when many of these women only have one choice?' he asked.

This position is not the general consensus among all European countries and was not shared by the second guest speaker. Ms Ilonka Stakelborough, the founder of Dutch Geisha Foundation, a trade union for sex workers, has been a voluntary sex worker for 25 years in the Netherlands, where prostitution has been legal and regulated since 2000. Ms. Stakelborough insisted that a distinction should always be made between prostitution and human trafficking. She would like to see the regulation of voluntary prostitution, ‘if the authorities could establish a dialogue with sex workers, it would be easier for them to identify and help victims of trafficking’. The 'Women Free from Violence’ hearing was an opportunity to discuss the impact that different policies have on trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, based on the Swedish and Dutch experiences.  

The VER newsletter: 'until now it is impossible to have a clear picture of the percentage of woman and men that are victims of forced prostitution and trafficking. About this vague situation the VER newsletter concludes the following: because it is very difficult to do research and count the number of prostitutes working involuntarily is estimated in the Netherlands. The percentage varies from 2% to 99%. There are absolutely no facts and no data, and in that situation the accusations of the Amsterdam city council that most prostitutes are forced to work are always right, until the conclusive proof is provided'.    

Also in Utrecht the prostitution area was closed down. But five months after the houseboats where the prostitutes were based in lost their licences, the Utrecht city council has agreed to a new location. The city was concerned about the possibility that women were being forced to work and that there was some human trafficking going on. This was a big deal for the city, as there were many arguments for both sides. Ultimately, the city closed down the entire area and the women were either out of work or they went to other cities. But now the city stated they will create a new prostitution district with 162 prostitution windows elsewhere in Utrecht. This new area will be known by the creative and original name: The Prostitute Centre. The city now requires that all prostitutes must be at least 21 years of age.

 

Links:

Prostitution: should sex buyers be criminalised?

France takes first steps towards abolition of prostitution

Canada rules out legalisation, municipal regulation of prostitution

Red Light Secrets museum opens in Amsterdam

Red Lights Secrets, Museum of Prostitution

Dutch prostitutes demand same pension perks as soccer players

A Day in the life of a Amsterdam Red Light District prostitute

 

 




 

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