Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema has announced plans to ban sex workers from standing in the city’s red light district’s notorious window displays to protect them from gazing tourists.
“We’re forced by circumstances because Amsterdam changes. I think a lot of the women who work there feel humiliated, laughed at and that’s one of the reasons we are thinking about changing,” Halsema, the city’s first female mayor, told Reuters.
She specifically referred to social shifts, including an increase in human trafficking and the number of tourists flowing to the red light district, where they take pictures of prostitutes standing in window-fronted rooms.
Halsema said that the scenarios to overhaul the red light district would be part of a report titled “The Future of Window Prostitution in Amsterdam”, due to be presented to residents and businesses at town hall meetings later this month.
After the best option is picked, it will be put to a vote in the city council before the end of this year.
Apart from prohibiting street window displays, Halsema hopes to close down city centre brothels and move them elsewhere as well as step up the licensing of sex window workers.
She added that a separate option may see the creation of an “erotic city zone” with a clear entrance gate, which would be similar to what is currently used in Hamburg.
Halsema underscored that changing Amsterdam’s red light district aims to protect prostitutes from worsening work conditions, contain crime and revive the 500-year-old neighbourhood, which is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.
She also stressed that the plan does not mean that the government plans to outlaw prostitution, which was legalised in the Netherlands in 1999.
“We legalised prostitution because we thought and still think that legal prostitution give a woman a chance to be autonomous, independent. Criminalising prostitution [which] has been done in the United States, I think, makes women extra vulnerable,” she concluded.