Fake news about home prostitution
Legal brothels closed down by the Dutch government
Yesterday the Dutch newspaper NRC came with a sensational article about home prostitution. The headline of the article was (again) disputing whether or not prostitutes work voluntarily. The article showed very much how the police works, but mostly how they think. Searching online for sex advertisements to make a fake booking with a prostitute, to 'check' if the prostitute is working voluntarily. And if they can't find anything, they just take away your passport apparently, as is written in the article, because FUCK YOU!

But besides the fact that it just show more how the police thinks, rather than what's wrong with prostitution, since in the article they don't find any victims at all, although the police constantly doubt everything. The most interesting things are the statistics mentioned in the article itself.
Part of those statistics come from the police themselves. For example they claim that 95% of the Eastern European women don't press charges. But than again, in the past 5 years there were only 45 suspected victims of trafficking in home prostitution from the European continent excluding The Netherlands itself. In short, this does not just include Eastern European prostitutes. So it's not so weird that 95% don't want to press charges if there are so few women suspected to be victims in the first place.

Another interesting statistic they mention is that according to the police in 60% of the cases they find 'wrongs'. But than again, this doesn't say anything about human trafficking, because the wrongs they speak of include not paying your taxes and children who are present in the home while the prostitute is working. But last time I checked there's no law against having your children at home while you work, also not in prostitution. So why do they call these 'wrongs', if there's nothing wrong with it? Or is it perhaps just another way to cranck up their number to 60% to make sensational claims?

But the most interesting thing about this article is the statistics used from the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking in The Netherlands. According to the article between 2011 and 2015 there would be 4100 suspected victims of human trafficking working in home prostitution. According to the article about 25% of all home prostitution. Really? That's interesting! I didn't know we knew how many prostitutes where working from their own home. Last time I checked we had no idea at all, not even the slightest. But based on this article we should assume there would be 16.400 prostitutes working from their own home? Really?

The statistics in the article are made up. Checking the numbers of the National Rapporteur it turns out there where 582 suspected victims of human trafficking in home prostitution from 2011 till 2015, and not 4100. That's a big fucking difference. In fact, it's 7 times a big as the actual number! So in that case it would be 3,5% of all the home working prostitutes, not 25%, assuming 16.400 prostitutes would be working in 5 years time in home prostitution.

It's sad to see that people will just make up numbers to make sensational claims about prostitution. And it begs the question why they would do this. But than again the article itself gives us some indication as to why this might be the case. After all, the last piece of the article is about the legislation for prostitution, which is now in the senate awaiting approval. The new legislation would allow prostitutes working from home without a license, basically allowing them to work like any other person that is self-employed. But the police fears this idea, that prostitutes can work without a license, and calls it a 'disaster'.

Ironically the police point out the fact that home prostitution without a license makes them loose sight of the prostitutes. That's true, and that's also what we warned the government for, for years already! But let's not forget why so many prostitutes these days work from their own home illegal, without a license. That's the because many cities closed down brothels all over the country, in total 46% of all the legal brothels, like for example also in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. So how are you supposed to work legal, if they close half of the places where it is legal down? That was legal, but they wanted to kick us out.

Now that they got about 50% of the prostitutes to loose their legal workplaces, prostitutes start working without a license from their own homes, because they still need a place to work. So who's fault is it really that they are loosing sight on prostitutes? The government's their own fault, because they closed 46% of the legal places down, yet make it impossible to work legal. For example, In The Hague you can't work at all from your own home. So how are these women supposed to work legal if you're not allowing them to? Maybe they should not close down so many brothels, and make it easier for prostitutes to get a license, than we wouldn't have this problem in the first place!
The Blue Light District
There's this myth that there's a Blue Light District in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. This apparently ended up one time in a travel guide once in the US, and ever since then people have been telling the fable of this 'Blue Light District' being located somewhere in Amsterdam's Red Light District. This blue light district is supposedly an area featuring only transgender sex workers, which could be identified by blue light (aka blacklight) in their windows instead of a red light.
The information from this travel guide apparently found its way to many of the tour guides that these days that walk around in the Red Light District, because many misinformed tour guides mention this. But fact is there is NO Blue Light District in Amsterdam.

So here are the facts. There's no Blue Light District, there are a couple of streets here and there where sometimes (but not always), transgender sex workers work. But since they're scattered around the Red Light District, you can't really speak of a 'Blue Light District'. Also the fact that it's called the Blue Light District is misleading. It comes from the idea that transgender sex workers would use blue lights to identify themselves as transgender sex workers, in contrast to the red lights that would be used by female sex workers. But fact is that this isn't true a all. All sex workers, both female and transgender, both blue and red lights. So the idea that a transgender sex worker can be recognized by a blue light is simply wrong, since every sex worker has blue light.

The use of blue light, or actually a blacklight as it is really called, is necessary to give some contrast to the otherwise completely red look you would get if you'd only use red lights. Otherwise everyone would look like a freaking tomato.

The misinformation that is out there, mostly coming these days from tour guides is huge. Many tour guides have no idea what they're talking about. They have no real knowledge about the area, no good information, and only based their story on what they heard from others, without verifying if it's true or not. So don't let yourself be fooled by many of these tour guides giving out wrong information, often it's only partially true or not true at all. Especially many of the big tour operators seem ignorant and uninformed. But even worse, they don't seem to care. It are also these big tour operators that lead around very big tour groups around, sometimes even up to 80(!) people, groups which are way too big for the small area that is the Red Light District with its narrow streets and alleys.

But the misinformation about this so called Blue Light District also has had a very negative side effects for the girls working behind the windows. Because potential clients have been misinformed about the use of blue lights in the area, clients often walk around for hours, searching for sex workers without a blue light, because they have been taught that a blue light means it's a transgender and not a female sex worker. This eventually leads to clients either giving up on their search for a 'female sex worker', because they can't find any, because they think every sex worker with a blue light is actually a transgender. Or they walk around for hours, and become confused as to who is transgender and who is not, making them scared to come in, because they don't know who is female and who is transgender.

Especially for the female sex workers that work in the Bloedstraat, that is often called out to be the 'Blue Light District, this is difficult. The confusion about this street comes from the fact that during the day this are is almost predominantly transgender sex workers. However, during the night behind a portion of those windows are just regular female sex workers, leaving clients confused who is female and who is not. The misinformation from the tour guides therefore often has as a consequence that many clients looking for female sex workers avoid this street, making it very difficult for the female sex workers in this street to make some good money.

Basically there are a few places where transgender sex workers can be found, and not one specific area or only in this area. The Bloedstraat during the day is pretty much all transgender, but during the night it's a mix between female and transgender sex workers. But the Barndesteeg is both during the night and the day also mostly transgender sex workers. But even a popular street such as the Stoofsteeg has some transgender sex workers, even though most people don't even know this. But also on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal during the day and night you can find transgender sex workers, although the majority are female.

With all this misinformation about who is female and who is transgender, sex workers often loose clients for no good reason other than being poorly informed. There is actually not one area with only transgender sex workers. There are streets where they sometimes are in the majority, but there's no area specifically that can be dubbed a Blue Light District. Nor is it true that only transgender sex workers use blue lights, or that you can recognize them by the use of blue lights. All sex workers use blue lights, so don't keep walking around for a sex worker without a blue light, because you'll never find it.

Dutch version
How brothels operate in the Red Light District
In the last few months I criticized two projects which aim to start a new brothel, Amsterdam's My Red Light and the plans of Non Nobis for a so called 'humane brothel'. The reason for criticizing them comes from the fact how they are presented in the media opposed to existing brothels. In both cases the media coverage claims these brothels will be different: more humane, no pimps, making sexworkers less dependent and more freedom. The fact that they're presented in the media like this, comes from the fact that people have very little knowledge about what a brothel is and what they do, they often get confused for pimps and traffickers, and are often seen as the bad guys. So I thought I'd write a post about how brothels operate, to show you this image is wrong, and that the plans of the new brothels isn't as new or different from how they claim it is.

In this post I will focus on window brothels in Amsterdam, since covering other types of brothels will require more explanation, but keep in mind that most of these things apply to all brothels, but not everything. A window brothel is basically nothing more than a company that rents out workspaces to window prostitutes. See it as a salon, where hairdressers can pay rent to work from, or a real estate company who rents out business space to a shop for example. Some people compare it with a hotel, since the workplaces are rented out for short periods. But basically a window brothel operator is nothing more than a company that rents out rooms, that's it. In the Red Light District in Amsterdam there are about 19 different window brothel operators who rent out in total 278 rooms, also referred to as windows. 

Destination of the building
You're not just allowed to open up a brothel anywhere. In order to run a brothel, the building it is situated in needs to be assigned a prostitution destination in the city's building destination plans. Only a limited amount of buildings in Amsterdam have such a destination in the city's plans, based on the amount of brothels from years ago, but since that time the amount of buildings with a prostitution destination has only diminished as part of Project 1012 to close down brothels in the Red Light District. Once a destination plan of a certain building has been changed from a brothel into something else, the current brothel can remain in the building until it changes owner, after which it is not allowed to be a brothel anymore, unless the destination plan of that building is changed back by the city council.

As part of Project 1012 in Amsterdam, the city's gentrification project that was sold to the general public as a crime fighting project, but in reality was all about real estate, many of the current brothels in the Red Light District of Amsterdam lost their prostitution destination. This means that if those current brothel owners sell their real estate, it's not allowed anymore to be a brothel. No new buildings have been assigned a prostitution destination, making it also impossible for brothels that have to move, to continue elsewhere. In short, they're just reducing the amount of legal places where prostitution has been allowed, they're not moving prostitution elsewhere, they're simply forcing it to go underground.

License
If you do have a building which is allowed to be a brothel according to the city destination building plans, you still need a license as a brothel operator to start one. Gaining a license is difficult and expensive. Just applying for a license for example costs about €1700, and there's no guarantee that you will also be accepted after applying for it. A license is given out by the city itself, after a thorough check done by the government in what is called a Bibob procedure to check the brothel operator's integrity. This procedure will look into someone's past for any criminal activities or ties, to ensure the person doesn't have any criminal intentions or past.

The bullshit stories that people are spreading about brothel operators, including those of Lodewijk Asscher in te past for example, about brothel operators being criminals or having anything to do with crimes is therefore also pure bullshit. After all, if those stories would even remotely be true, they would've never even gained their license in the first place, and they certainly would've lost their license if any of these things would be true. The fact that people constantly conflate brothel operators with criminals is completely unjust, since they have absolutely no criminal ties or history, this has been thoroughly checked by the government itself! The clean up of the Red Light District was therefore also not to fight crime, since if that would be actually the case, they would've simply lost their license, and the city wouldn't have to buy these brothel operators out for millions of euro's.

Cities in The Netherlands rarely ever give out new licenses, making it nearly impossible to start a new legal business, while at the same time many cities, including Amsterdam are revoking licenses of existing brothels, creating a nation wide shortage in legal places to work for sexworkers. Since brothels where legalized in 2000 in The Netherlands there have never been this many brothels closed down, in total 46% of all the legal brothels have closed down since 2000. And this has caused many sexworkers to start working illegal, since they want to work legal, but the expenses of gaining a license and the fact that they're often refused make it almost impossible to get one.

Besides the Bibob check brothel operators also need to present a complete business plan for their brothel, which has to be approved by the city according to their own local laws (APV). And they need to get a hygiene report from the government health care organisation GGD. Of course they also need to be registered at the Chambers of Commerce as legal business owners, pay taxes and if any abuses are found in their brothel, the city has the right to immediately withdraw their license. 

A prostitute under the age of 21 working in a window brothel in Amsterdam is immediately a reason to revoke the license of the brothel operator. Not following correctly any of the (many) local rules for prostitution businesses will result in a penalty, which eventually can have them loose their license. These penalties could even be about not replacing an empty soap pump, as brothel operators have got penalties for those in the past. If the brothel operator knows a prostitute is a victim of trafficking, and does not report it to the police, they can loose their license. However, if they do report it they can also loose their license, because than they've let a victim of trafficking working there, so there's really no way for them to act good in a situation like this. Whether they report the victim of trafficking or not to the police, in both cases they're fucked and they risk their license, a paradox created by the city out for the blood of brothel operators, eager to close them down for whatever reason.

Renting out windows
Window brothel operators are only allowed to rent out their rooms to people who have registered themselves at the Chambers of Commerce as either a prostitute or under personal services, who have a valid European passport, and are at least 21 years of age. Everything gets checked by the brothel operators, since not following these rules would result in them loosing their license. The Chambers of Commerce registration gets checked every day by the brothel operator online to see if it's still an active registration. Passports get verified with a scan for authenticity every day. They check your registration of the city you live (GBA registration) in every day. So the stories of there being underage prostitutes working in the Red Light District are 100% bullshit.

Before a window brothel operator will rent you a window, he will do a mandatory intake interview with you, something the city has made mandatory to all brothel operators. The intake interview is to ensure that the prostitute in question is 'self reliant' enough to do this work, in short, it's just a way to find out if you work for yourself or for a pimp. The questions violate the privacy laws of The Netherlands, but brothel operators have no choice, since it's a requirement from the city to do so. Questions vary from why you want to do this job, to when you went on vacation the last time, how you got here, if you have a boyfriend, to even questions about your sex life etc. etc. 

The intake interview gets done only the first time a prostitute wants to rent a window and doesn't have to happen every day, unlike the registration checks. Any suspicions that the girl might be a victim will result in the brothel operator refusing girl, out of fear of losing his license. If a girl turns out to be a victim later, the brothel operator should report it to the police, but because that would result in them loosing their license this is problematic. However, if they don't report the girl to the police as a victim, they can also loose their license if the police or the city ever finds out, so the brothel operators are stuck. Either way they will loose their license, whether they do the right thing and report it to the police or not. So there's no way for brothel operators to do the right thing, because of these city rules. It is a completely idiotic system, purely built on the idea that the city can close down windows easier, just looking for any reason to close them down.

Once the story of the prostitute seems okay, all her papers are checked out and validated, the girl will usually sign for the house rules. Those house rules usually consist out of explaining what the prices are for the rooms during their shifts, from when to when the rooms are available, what is included in the agreement, how things work when you want to take free, etc. Girls are not allowed to work more than 6 days a week, and are not allowed to work double shifts. Also the use of drugs in the room is usually forbidden. The girl will pay for the room for that day, after which she will receive the key to the room, very much like how a hotel works. The rooms are rented out by shift, so each day the same ritual happens. The girl comes into the office, the brothel operator checks out all the paperwork and verifies them, the girl pays for the room, and she gets her key to the room.

The rooms inside the brothel
The room consists out of basically a bedroom, some are really small, others are much bigger, this all depends on how the building was constructed. Because the buildings are centuries old most of the times, they weren't designed to be brothels. So basically they've turned it into a brothel by dividing different rooms into one workplace for a girl. Each room will have of course a bed, with a plastic matras for hygiene reasons. A sink with a water tap, with paper towels, a soap pump and an alcohol spray and a cleaning spray. A trash can for all the trash (used paper towels, used condoms etc.). Usually the toilets are shared with the other rooms, as well as the shower. The lighting in the room is arranged by the brothel operator, if a light doesn't work, or you want to change the lighting in your room, the brothel operator can change this for you, although many girls change the lights themselves according to their own preferences. Sometimes girls change the lighting in the room, meaning the colors of the lights, by swapping them around with other lights in the room, to achieve the best lighting effect for themselves, so they look at their best in the room.

Each room has an alarm button, some rooms have multiple. If the alarm button is pressed, it will notify the brothel operator of any troubles, and the rule of the city is that they have to be present within 12 minutes. Some of these alarms are silent, others are incredibly loud and even have a yellow light on the outside of the building going off, to notify the people outside there is a problem. The police can also respond to the alarm going off, it's basically a matter of who gets there first. And if the brothel operator can't handle the situation (they're not allowed to fight), they will call the police.

In the room the brothel operators usually hang a list of rules and hygiene guide lines. Often they'll hang up a list of phone numbers you can call, such as the phone number of the police, of the office of the brothel operator, health care and other important phone numbers. Things such as condoms, sextoys, working clothes, lubrication, bed sheets, pillows etc. are all things the girl needs to bring herself. The rooms are cleaned each day by cleaners the brothel operator hires, who follow strict guidelines from the city's health care to ensure hygiene.

Most brothel operators in the Red Light District are really nice people, not the pimps they're often made out to be by the media, politicians, opinion makers and people with other interests. If a girl needs help they will help her, but the rules of the city often block how much they can help a girl. Most brothel operators have run their brothels for decades already, and often they're family businesses. Recently Vice Nederland did a really nice job of making a Dutch documentary about how brothels are run, which you can see here:


Dutch version
Non Nobis has plans for a 'humane' brothel
A 'humane' brothel, that was the headline of one of the newspaper articles yesterday about Non Nobis their plans to open up brothels in the Netherlands in several cities. The foundation which has primarily been operating in real estate, wants to renew the prostitution industry in The Netherlands. According to them this is necessary because right now 'many prostitutes are caught in a web of of pimps, brothel owners and slum landlords'.

Their idea is to open up a brothel where the sexworkers can be more independent, and less depending on pimps, brothel owners and operators. How exactly? Well, with the revolutionary idea to have one building where brothel operators can rent space to rent out to sexworkers. A 'humane brothel' as it was called in the newspapers. Isn't that a nice idea? Well, here's a newflash for you people, this already exists! This is nothing new, this is exactly how the prostitution industry works today. For example, my brothel operator rents the building from the owner, and they rent workplaces out to us as well, so what else is new? So this humane brothel, implying that the current ones wouldn't be humane, already exists in every brothel right now!

According to Non Nobis however this brothel will be different because sexworkers will be less dependent on brothel operators, owners and pimps. First of all I hate the fact that they put brothel operators and owners on the same level as a pimp, because those two things are completely different from each other. What people don't seem to realize is that the relationship between a prostitute and a pimp is something that happens in someone's private life, it's something the brothel owner doesn't see or know about, and certainly doesn't participate in. So putting these two on the same level is just a disgrace for all the brothel operators. Brothel operators aren't pimps, they don't exploit or force us, they just rent places out to us, that's it. So there's really nothing to fix when it comes to the brothels or the people who run the brothel, since that was never the problem. If you want to fix the problems of trafficking and pimps, you should look at the cause of those, and those are often that pimps and traffickers take advantage of victims who have trouble finding a way into prostitution.

But how exactly does Non Nobis thinks they can make sexworkers less depending on brothel operators and pimps at the same time? Well, because the sexworkers will deposit their income at an office of Non Nobis (who will be the brothel owner), and the money for the rent will be send to the brothel operator, and the rest of the money will be send to the account of the sexworker.
But wait a minute? Doesn't this make sexworkers more depending on Non Nobis than other brothel owners? After all, in the currrent situation I only have to pay the brothel owner/operator my rent, and all my earnings I can keep for myself. But if Non Nobis is my brothel owner, than I have to give them all my money? Doesn't that make me more depending on Non Nobis, if in stead of just relying on them for a place to work, I also have to rely on them for all my hard earned cash? That would make me way more depending on them, than with any other current brothel owner.

So, no, this will not make sexworkers less depending on the brothel owner, in this case Non Nobis, but even more than in current situations. Above all, it still doesn't solve the problem of pimps and trafficking. After all, what happens to the money after the sexworker has received it is still not transparant. A sexworker can still give her earnings away to a pimp after she received her payment from Non Nobis, and they wouldn't know. So it doesn't solve anything. And neither does it solve the problem of how women can enter this industry without having to fall into the hands of pimps and traffickers.

All in all the intentions of Non Nobis seem good, but as always the ideas they came up with, which they think are very different from how things are right now, are usually pretty much how things are already at the moment. We already pay for example for our workplaces at a central office, that of the brothel operator. So this is nothing new. I can already deposit my money on a bank account if I'd want to do that, so that's also not something new. Plus if I'd do that, my brothel owner won't have any access to my money. However giving all of my earned money away to one single company, in this case Non Nobis, with the promise that I'll get it back from them sounds an awfull lot like how a loverboy works, and certainly doesn't make sexworkers less depending on them as a brothel owner!

It's interesting to see how people always seem to think their ideas about prostitution and how things should be arranged are so new and revolutionary, while in reality most of those plans come down to exactly how things are currently arranged. In short, this just proves how little people really know about the realities of prostitution. They think they come up with a new idea, but in reality it's exactly the same as how it is now. And if they come up with new ideas, they're often worse or don't solve any problems.

But what really worries me is how Non Nobis is offering themselves up as a replacement for existing workplaces, in stead of offering themselves up as new additional workplaces for those that have been lost in recent years already. For example, they're now offering themselves up as replacement for red light district areas in several cities, such as Amsterdam and The Hague. But Non Nobis should offer themselves up as new workplaces that replace all the legal workplaces prostitutes already have lost in recent years, meaning it would increase the amount of legal workplaces in stead of maintaining a status quo.

All in all, a perfect example of how people seem to think they can reinvent the wheel. But the real problems won't be solved by Non Nobis their plans, since the problems weren't being cause by brothels or their owners in the first place. It just shows how little people know about the realities of the prostitution industry, but I also already told them about that before.

Dutch version
Amsterdam police says no prostitute works voluntarily
This week there was a lot of commotion about a Facebook post the police of Amsterdam did on their page. The post was centered around the European day for Human Trafficking, and was supposed to be about human trafficking. In stead the police of Amsterdam choose to single out only human trafficking in prostitution, and they where very stigmatizing and plain dumb with their statements.

The choice to pick (yet again) prostitution as a way to talk about human trafficking is interesting, since the last known statistics from Amsterdam show us that the majority of the possible victims don't even work in prostitution at all, but are exploited in another industry. In fact last known specified statistics show us that 62% of the possible victims in Amsterdam (43 possible victims in total) where exploited in another industry than prostitution, leaving only 38% of the victims coming from the prostitution industry itself (or 26 possible victims in total).

But besides the fact that the choice of the police to write about human trafficking in prostitution is an interesting choice, considering the fact that the majority of trafficking happens outside of the prostitution industry in Amsterdam, and the fact that prostitution is far more often associated with trafficking compared to any other industry, making it already stigmatizing on itself to yet again talk about only trafficking in prostitution. The article itself made the Dutch union of sexworkers PROUD angry by claiming that 'no 12 year olds would dream of becoming a prostitute' and that 'nobody does this voluntarily no matter how much they claim to be'. So PROUD filed an official complaint with the police of Amsterdam demanding a rectification. 

Due to the media attention the response of PROUD caught the police quickly formulated a response, claiming that they didn't meant that 'nobody would voluntarily become a prostitute', but that 'nobody would voluntarily become a victim'. Of course that goes without saying, I mean, have you ever heard anyone claiming they voluntarily would become victim of a crime? Of course not!
So of course the police meant that they didn't believe any prostitute would willingly do this job voluntarily, which corresponds with what they mention as motives to become a prostitute in their article, namely: poverty, loverboys and abuse. Applying those same motives to becoming a victim wouldn't make any sense, since nobody would voluntarily become a victim in the first place, but more importantly, you cannot become a victim of trafficking by poverty!!! Doing your job because otherwise you have no money is not a crime, and certainly not human trafficking.

And even than, they still wrote, and I quote: 'There's no 12 year old girl that answers to the question what you want to become when you grow up: I want to become a prostitute.' A pretty clear example that they weren't talking about victims, but about how they can't believe that women do this job voluntarily, and even stating that women who do this job to financially support themselves (out of poverty) are forced in their eyes. This also corresponds with almost all of their previous reports, in which they often make very high estimations, purely based on their own gut feelings, about how many prostitutes are forced into prostitution, as for example their report 'Schone Schijn' does, which estimated for example that between 50 to 85% of the prostitutes where forced, without doing any research about this.

So yes, the police their claim that they meant to talk about victims rather than prostitutes is purely a lie they told to avoid public blame. But there's so much more wrong with this article. For example, they claim that many women, often minors, are forced into prostitution. But looking at the most recent statistics from the police of Amsterdam itself, it shows that this is not 'often' the case as they claim. Last year they reported in total 59 possible victims in Amsterdam of which 4 where under the age of 18, so that's in total 6,8% of all possible victims in Amsterdam. By all accounts that cannot be called 'often', but more occasionally.

But probably most of all I'm angry about the tone of this article. The headline of the Facebook post of the police alone reads 'These women sometimes get raped 10 times a day'. The article purely makes it look as if trafficking victims in prostitution are all women that get raped day after day. But simple fact is that this does not apply to all victims. In fact, many victims are women that choose voluntarily to become a prostitute, unlike how the police chooses to believe, but got into a situation in which they became exploited. Often this involves women who needed help getting into prostitution, often in combination with migrating from another country to The Netherlands, and paid a high price for this to people offering this help, functioning almost like a job agency. Women in these kind of situations choose very consciously for this profession, but simply needed help because the Dutch government made it so difficult for women to enter prostitution. This is done on purpose by the way by the Dutch government, which is called the barrier model, which is supposed to prevent victims from easily getting caught in prostitution. But in reality this barrier model actually creates a lot of human trafficking, because now women that want to enter prostitution have to rely on others, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

The police obviously didn't think anybody would notice how stigmatizing their article would be, and thought they could a small lie here and there to exaggerate the story a little bit to gain more attention for this problem. They didn't actually think anybody would object to it, since few people have in the past, and they rarely ever got any attention. In fact, they wrote like how most other organizations often write about trafficking in prostitution; stigmatizing and filled with incorrect information, false statements and purely creating a negative image about prostitution. This is the stigma that we as sexworkers are constantly fighting, coming from organizations who are trying to help victims, but in doing so increasing the stigma and thereby making sexworkers more vulnerable to trafficking.

It should also come as no surprise that the negative image in the media about prostitution was the most often mentioned problem by prostitutes themselves in researches. And in those same researches it also is shown that sexworkers themselves are least happy about the police of all the contacts they have, which just shows the troubling relationship there is between the police and the sexworker. But that should come as no surprise when you read that the policeman thinks he can judge for us if we're doing this job voluntarily or not. This tunnel vision from police officers (not all, because there are some good ones as well), causes the police to distrust our honest answers when we answer why we choose this profession. And their distrust in us caused sexworkers to distrust the police. For example, I know one girl that was a victim of trafficking, and she strongly doubted to call in the police after exactly these kind of bad experiences. And you guessed it, once she did call the police and they got involved, she got into more trouble than she was before. And than the police keeps wondering why victims don't want to press charges?

Sadly though the police does not want to rectify their incorrect statements about trafficking in prostitution. They'd rather stigmatize an entire profession, rather than giving in to the fact that what they said was wrong and untrue. This partially also shows how deep the believe of the police is in how right they think they are. They really do think they can tell which prostitutes are forced or not, even if this is not the case. And because they believe this, other people from other organizations or even other police districts will believe this as well, causing them to do the same thing. And this has been going on for years already, and this simply needs to stop!

Dutch version
My Red Light not what they claim to be
Today was the press presentation of My Red Light, the new name of Project Own Window. This project aims to let sexworkers in Amsterdam's Red Light District run their own brothel. Or at least, that's what they claim, because here's the truth.

I've already talked about this project before, and criticized the framing of the mayor on this project. He proposed this project to be a 'pimp free’ brothel, insinuating with this that other brothels were not pimp free, and that this brothel would be the first brothel without pimps. A complete bullshit story, since first of all there are very few girls that actually have a pimp (I'll go into that further below) and since this brothel has just as much chance of renting their windows to a girl with a pimp as any other brothel.

Today's publicity about the project even stated that the current brothel owners are an increasing risk on abuses (aka trafficking). A complete bullshit story, which is just the reason why many girls don't trust this project. First of all there are hardly any abuses to begin with, as the numbers from the city of Amsterdam themselves prove. With only 1,5% (102 sexworkers) of all the 6750 estimated sexworkers in Amsterdam there are suspicions that they might be victims of trafficking. In fact, only about 30 woman anually press charges for human trafficking. So this is not really a big problem, unlike how people (like the mayor for example) often claim.

It's again the mayor trying to frame the current brothel owners as the bad guys in favor of this brothel, just so he can have an excuse to close down the other brothels. Current brothel owners don't increase the risk of abuses at all, and this project also doesn't reduce it. It's bullshit. Who runs the brothel has nothing to do with who's being exploited or forced. In fact, giving this project to the wrong sexworkers could even result in a pimp invested brothel, where the real people who are pulling the strings aren't the sexworkers, but the pimps controlling them. So than you'd basically be giving the pimps full control over this 'pimp free' brothel.

What people should really be asking themselves is which problem this project solves? It doesn't prevent any abuses, that's a fact. Girls working in this brothel could just as well have a pimp as the ones working with any other brothel, you can't see that on the outside, it's something that happens in someone's personal situation. As someone who runs a brothel you can't see this on the outside.

So if it doesn't stop the trafficking they claim to be stopping, than what problem does this project solve? Sexworkers would have more control over the brothel. Very nice, but the vast majority of sexworkers are already happy with how things are going in the current brothels. A research done by the PIC in the Red Light District itself shows only 5% is unhappy with their brothel operator, 50% is happy and 43% are neutral about it. Another research done by the Dutch government nation wide shows 79% being happy with their relationship with their brothel owner. So that's not a problem that needed fixing.

In fact, only 6 sexworkers showed an interest in working in this brothel at all, which shows just how small the demand for this project from the sexworkers side is. In the newspaper Monica talks about that there's a lot of interest from the prostitution industry itself, but that's not true at all, which is also the reason why she doesn't want to say how many sexworkers are involved in this project. Well, here's the truth: In total 15 girls where interested to work on this project, but most of them didn't want to work there, resulting in only 6 girls who actually want to work there. We're talking about only 6 sexworkers, even though in the Red Light District alone there are already an estimated 600 sexworkers working, so that's about 1%!

So if it's not the trafficking problem, and not how the brothel is being run, what other reason could they have to start this project? So sexworkers themselves can decide how they work? Well, we already can! I decide which days I work, how long I work, how I work. The mayors claim that girls are forced to rent a window 7 days a week, and pay for their room during vacation is largely bullshit. First of all it's not even allowed anymore to rent 7 days a week a room, so every brothel gives you at least one day off a week for which you don't have to pay the room. Secondly, just some brothels demand you to pay for your room if you go on vacation if you want to keep the rooms yours. This does certainly not apply to all brothels.

Just to give you an example. I don't work 7 days a week, I work 5 days a week, and also only pay for my room 5 days a week. So it's not that true that we have to pay for 7 days a week. I also can get as much vacation as I want, with a maximum of 6 weeks, and even more if you can find a girl who wants to work in my room during that period. In short, if another girl works in your room during your vacation, you can take as much vacation as you want. So this is just a lie!
And just to give you a little hint at how much better the rental conditions are for My Red Light, they only allow you to take maximum 3 weeks in a row vacation. My own brothel does not for example have a maximum on this. So this is not better, this is less!

Than they come up with the excuse that sexworkers can now decide how the brothel should look like. For example, so they can have a shower. Newsflash, every brothel where sexworkers work already have a shower, this is not something new! A mirror in our brothel? Please, come on, we already have those as well! In fact, my room has two big mirrors! It's nice that they can decorate their own brothel now, but if that's the reason for doing this project, than why didn't they just subsidize the current brothel owners to redecorate their brothels? Would've saved up a lot of money in stead of this very expensive project, which so far isn't really tackling any problems.

Than they mention the fact that we as sexworkers demanded more safe workplaces. That is absolutely correct, we even demonstrated for that last year. But than why are they still closing down more than twice as many windows as they're opening up now? If the problem is that there aren't enough safe workplaces, than why are you closing down twice as much of them as you're re-opening?
Chairperson of PROUD, Yvette Luhrs, said it correctly in the news article. This project is just being used as a small bandage on the huge gaping wound the city created themselves by closing down so many windows. It's a tiny discount on how many windows they're going to close down. It's like they first steal everything from you, and than you get one small piece back from them, and you should be happy about that.

Even worse is that this brothel is claiming to be the first prostitution company where sexworkers themselves are in control. Besides the fact that this is an insult to every sexworker that is currently running their own business, it is also incorrect. In fact, every single window prostitute IS running her own prostitution company. There are in Amsterdam alone already approximately 1000 sexworkers running their own business of which I'm one! So this is a huge insult on every other sexworker, as if we would not be running our own businesses, as if they would be the first, which is absolutely not true!

But even more ironic is the fact that their claim of a brothel being run by sexworkers isn't even true! Several employees from current brothel operators have already been in talks to start working there to run the brothel on a daily base! These are the same people who are currently working in the brothels the mayor is claiming to be increasing the problem of abuses. So how they fuck can you be claiming sexworkers would run their own brothel, if you're in talks with other people to run it, which are even the same people running the other brothels right now?!

Than they try to rip off from other brothels. For example, by creating a place where sexworkers come together and drink a cup of coffee. Well, I guess it's better to steal something good, than to come up with something shit yourself. Because they've simply stole this idea from several other brothels in Amsterdam's Red Light District. For example in the Sint Annenstraat there's a brothel who has the same thing, also two other brothels on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal have the same thing. This isn't new! You're just stealing the ideas from other brothel owners and claiming you're the first!

The community feeling they want to create is something for example they stole from my brothel operator. He frequently organizes parties and barbeques for example for all the girls working there. At New Year's Eve for example we had a party, we went one time to a pancake restaurant on a boat with all the girls, in the summer we had a barbeque, they even went with some girls to Sensation White! So this also isn't anything new!

But probably the worst of all things, is the fact that banks such as Triodos and Rabobank, who are notorious for refusing sexworkers, now all of the sudden want to be part of this project. Triodos even refused sexworker lead organisation PROUD, who stands up for the rights of sexworkers! But now when the mayor gets involved they all of the sudden pretend to be sexwork friendly. Good for those 6 girls who are going to be working there, but they're still refusing all other sexworkers. It's the worst form of hypocrisy. The banks that refuse sexworkers most often, are just trying to make a good name for themselves. But make no mistake, they still are refusing sexworkers, so it's just a privilege created by the mayor specifically for this project, and nothing else!

The more I find out about this project, and see how they present themselves (first prostitution business run by sexworkers) and the mayor (a pimp free brothel), the more I'm starting to dislike it. They're only interested in their own brothel, but not in any of the other hundreds of sexworkers working at other brothels. They're still closing down dozens of windows, and are using these 14 windows as leverage. While they're claiming it to be a brothel run by sexworkers, while in reality it will be the same people who are running the current brothels now.

Dutch version
Project 1012 in Amsterdam's Red Light District has failed
In recent years there have been a lot of complaints in the media about the crowds of tourists in Amsterdam. The many cheese-, ice- and wafel shops that popped up all over Amsterdam. More burgerbars, more Nutella shops. At the same time in recent years the number of prostitution windows as well as the number of coffeeshops have been reduced heavily, as part of gentrification project: Project 1012, to 'clean up' the Red Light District. The neighborhood had to become livable again, less crime, less 'unwanted' businesses.

In a newspaper article yesterday in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool however it turned out that the situation in the neighborhood hasn't improved at all, in fact, it's just gotten worse. Where there used to be plenty of things to do for the visitors that came to the Red Light District, now it's largely disappeared. Now more than 25% of all the window brothels have been closed down by the city. Also the number of sexshops has been heavily reduced, plus they have to close down earlier at 10 pm, in stead of the 2 am like how they had it before. Bars and clubs close down earlier, meaning drunk people end up half way through the night on the street with nothing to do.

At the same time the number of coffeeshops have been heavily reduced by the city. Partially forced by the city government under Project 1012 (19 shops), partially using the argument that they can't be too close to schools (11 shops), to reduce drug use under the youth these days. Not that this has any effect, so researched in order of the mayor proved, because it turned out this had no effect at all, since people under 21 never went into coffeeshops in the first place because this is not even legal.

At the same time the number of street drugsdealers in the area is increasing. They see their chance to sell their stuff to tourists looking for some drugs after the coffeeshops are closed. After all, there are now far fewer coffeeshops than before and they close down early, but the demand isn't less, and so they see a brand new market opening up for them. The consequence is that there are much more street drugsdealers than before, that operate very aggressively.

The approach of the city towards the Red Light District, to reduce the so called 'unwanted' businesses, and replace them with 'high class' businesses has failed completely. Many of these so called 'high class' businesses don't last very long at all, move to another area because they don't make much money in the Red Light District, or complain in the media about the lack of customers for their shops. My gosh, who would've guessed that visitors of the Red Light District would not be interesting in fancy fashion and artsy stuff and other bullshit!

Meanwhile also the police station near the Red Light District has been closed down, and the police has moved to the other side of the city's center on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Try and explain a drunk tourist in the Red Light District where that is! The situation has therefore become much less safe, with more fights, as also recent incidents have proven. A consequence of reducing the size of the Red Light District under Project 1012, closing down shops and bars earlier, causing drunk people to start hanging on the streets in the only area where there's still something to do: near the window brothels. With as a consequence that with more drunk people packed in higher concentrations hanging out on the streets having nothing to do, there are more fights.

The supervision of the police is besides that minimal. Many prostitutes complain about the lack of supervision from the police. We see how tourists have taken over the area, making fun of us, just coming there to watch us without any intention of going inside, while taking unwanted pictures of us that end up on social media. Police that is present often doesn't do much, and just hangs around on the bridge near the Old Sailors pub, staring at tourists, but barely doing anything. On top of that comes the fact that the city of Amsterdam is having financial problems, and has admitted that there's simply less money available for police protection. The consequences? Less supervision of the police!

Despite the financial problems however, the city still has plans to close down 37 more window brothels, closing down pretty much the entire Sint Annenquarter, and reducing the size of the Red Light District even further. The plans to close down 83 more windows already was changed to close down just 37 more windows due to financial problems. But with an even smaller area and less stuff to do, resulting in more people starting to hang on the streets in a smaller place, this will only cause more reason for conflicts. And although the buildings of the brothels that still will be closed down, will be bought by 1012 Inc., which isn't funded anymore by the city itself, the city is going to have to pay the brothel owners themselves huge damage payment for closing down their businesses, like how they've paid other brothel owners before.

That money could've been better spend on more police protection in the area, in stead of buying off brothel owners. Especially since the only result less brothels will have, is an increase in illegal prostitution, which again means more work for the police, for which they don't have the money. We've already learned from all over the country, that less legal prostitution doesn't mean it stops, it simply increases illegal prostitution. Also in Amsterdam this is the case, where since 2012 the number of illegal prostitution reports have almost doubled, from 41 reports in 2012 to 79 reports last year.

Meanwhile the policy of the city of Amsterdam for the Red Light District have created a more family friendly image. Less prostitution, less drugs, more art, culture and fashion is what they promoted the Red Light District with, if they promoted the Red Light District at all, which they often don't want to do, because they'd rather not promote the Red Light District at all. They wanted to get rid of the image of Amsterdam as the city of drugs and prostitution, something they obviously didn't succeed in, because still the area is being overrun by tourists, just now they come to party and drink, in stead of visit the prostitutes. On top of that they've gotten more tourists, since they promoted it for a larger audience, causing the Red Light District to be completely overrun by tourists that just come here to watch, and mainly causing more problems.

It's no wonder that things are going wrong in the Red Light District. More and more drunk tourists, in a smaller area, things closing down earlier, causing people to start hanging out on the streets earlier because there's nothing to do, in the only area which still is fun in the middle of the night. It's no wonder this is creating problems. Higher concentration of people in a smaller area with less things to do, under the influence of alcohol and (sometimes) dangerous drugs, with less police to uphold the law. Who would've guessed this could've gone wrong, right?

Dutch version
  • My photo

    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.