Normalizing prostitution
I've heard a lot of politicians and other people talking about the normalizing of prostitution, like in this debate about prostitution in Amsterdam not so long ago. According to them the legalization of prostitution in 2000 did make prostitution a legal job, but not a normal job. And according to them, we need to work on making prostitution a normal job.
It are the words that the current mayor of Amsterdam said last year November, and he's absolutely right about that. Prostitution may be a legal job in Holland, but it's certainly not considered a normal job. And because it's not a normal job, many prostitutes including myself, still have trouble on a daily base doing things normal people with normal jobs would have no trouble to do.

For instance, prostitutes have trouble getting bank accounts, prostitutes can't get loans from banks, prostitutes can't get mortgages for a house, prostitutes have trouble finding an apartment to rent, since nobody wants a 'whore' in his apartment etc.
But then again, what has the mayor himself done to help normalize prostitution so far? All he's done has been closing down windows, and with that closing safe workplaces for prostitutes, and mainly talk about the crimes of human trafficking and forced prostitution happening in prostitution. He has kept on claiming that on a daily base 400 women get raped in Amsterdam because they would be victim of human trafficking. He bases this on the fact that the lowest research about human trafficking talks about 10%, and multiplies this with the estimated number of prostitutes working in Amsterdam (4000), and then claims they 'are all raped on a daily base'. Besides the point that this is of course ludicrous, it's also completely false and insinuating. Human trafficking is much broader then just forced prostitution, and even if women are forced into prostitution, it doesn't mean they get raped. Not every client that comes in wants to have sex.

But the mayor neglects this to tell his own story, insinuating mass rapes and crimes happening. Is that really helping to normalize a profession? In what way did the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, add something to the normalization of our profession?
Well, he didn't actually. All he does is he keeps on talking about crimes happening in our industry, even though they're only a small part of our industry (10%), and he neglects to do anything for the 90% of the prostitutes that aren't victims, but women working for themselves.
He complains about how many prostitutes don't pay their taxes. I don't think it's that weird. If a government does nothing for your profession but bully it and stigmatize it as criminal and filled with crime, and on top of that neglects to do anything to improve the position of prostitutes, besides raising the minimum age of prostitution so more women loose their jobs, and introducing closing hours for the Red Light District so less women can work there, causing more women to loose their income. Then indeed I don't think it's so weird many of these women don't want to pay their taxes to a government that does nothing for them but making their lives and jobs more difficult. On top of that, prostitutes make a lot of money with their job, probably ten times more then an average person, so we also pay ten times more taxes, but in stead get much less back for it then an average person does. Why pay for something or someone that does nothing for you, but in stead only sees you as something criminal.

The mayor calls raising the minimum age of prostitution from 18 to 21 improving the rights for prostitutes. But all this does is give less women the option to work in prostitution, in short, you're taking away their freedom to choose for something they want. All this is being done under the pretense that prostitution is an adult job with dangers. But isn't being in the army dangerous as well? Then how come I enter the army at the age of 18 to get myself shot in Afghanistan, but I can't choose to go into prostitution with a small chance that an aggressive customer might cause danger for me? Does the city government of Amsterdam consider being in the army, or being a police officer or even working as a security guard, body guard or a bouncer at a club to be a safer job then prostitution?
Yes, there is some danger in prostitution, but it's not like it's a very dangerous job. In fact, in my 4 years time working in the Red Light District myself, I've only been one time in a dangerous situation. Research shows that 80% of the prostitutes has never been in a dangerous situation in their entire career (link here), while other jobs where people can enter at the age of 18 like the army can give you almost a 100% guarantee of danger. Yes, as a prostitute you need to be strong. Prostitution is definitely not for the faint of heart, and I do agree with the fact that some girls are too young and naive to start in this business, but the same thing goes for many other jobs the government does nothing about.

They've talked about how closing hours for the Red Light District would improve the position of the prostitutes. They claimed some women where working sometimes even 22 or 24 hours! Besides the fact that this is completely ridiculous, since you can't even work there that long, because even if you work double shifts, you still have to leave the room for a couple of hours when the cleaners come, it's just a lie told to achieve something else, namely slowly, step by step closing down the Red Light District.
But the claim was that introducing closing times for the window owners, our offices, would make it impossible for women to work these extreme long hours. According to them the reason why many prostitutes would be working very long hours, was because the prices of the rooms went up, and the prices for our services would've gone down. Apparently it never occurred to them that the reason the prices for the rooms went up, was because there are less windows because they closed them down themselves, and therefore the offices can ask how much they want to, because they have a monopoly on it.
And on top of that, it's not like the prices have gone up that much. Since I've been working here, in 4 years time the price has gone up with 10 Euro's. On a total price of 155 Euro, it's not exactly a shocking raise in price, and let's be honest, everywhere prices are going up, not just in prostitution.

The story that prices for our services has gone down I can not really confirm. Our offices have set a minimum price of 50 Euro, exactly like how it was before, to protect the girls from competition with the prices. If the office finds out you work for less, they can kick you out, and you'll never get a room in Amsterdam ever again.
And then the reason why so many girls work so many hours is not just because the prices of the room went up (many of them weren't even working here before the prices went up), but it's something they created themselves by closing down so many windows. It leaves less rooms for the same amount of prostitutes to work in the Red Light District. In short, there's a huge shortage in safe workplaces for the same amount of people.
Since most girls have a fixed room, this leaves the rest of the girls without a room, waiting until one of the other girls leaves there room to go on vacation or take a free day. Not knowing when they might get a room again after another girl leaves her room, they try to make as much money as possible in the time the room is available for them. Because even though they don't work, they still have to pay the rent to their home's and still need to live. In short, those girls try to work as much whenever they get the chance to, because they still have to pay their bills even if they can't work, and therefore are willing to work long hours.
It all comes down to the fact that the cause of all these problems where the closing of windows themselves.
On top of that the current economy also has an effect on prostitution, like it has on any other industry as well. Prostitutes simply don't make as much money as they did before, and to still make enough money for your living, sometimes you have to push yourself to work long hours.

Wouldn't it perhaps have been a better idea to give back the windows they closed to prostitution, to stop the shortage of safe workplaces, offering more women a safe place to work, and the government a better way to keep control over these women? It would certainly solve the problem of all those people occupying all those buildings now, while not paying any rent, making the real estate companies loose lot's of money on it.
I think if we offered those real estate companies who now own those old prostitution buildings the option, to either keep renting it out to people who pay little to no rent for it, or to rent it to prostitutes who are willing to pay 100 to 150 Euro per shift for it, the deal would be easy.
But it's the city government that blocks everything from prostitutes renting those places to work in, causing a shortage of safe workplaces for prostitutes on one side, and nobody willing to pay the rent for those buildings on the other side.

For prostitution to become a normal job, it would need to be treated as such, and not to be criminalized, stigmatized and regulated like it is now. Prostitutes would need to get more rights in stead of more rules. And it would need for people with influence to talk more about the positive sides of prostitution, in stead of focusing and only talking about the very few crimes happening in our industry.
Yes, prostitution has crime, just like almost every industry in the world has crime in it. That doesn't mean we should treat it any different, but it does mean prostitution needs to be put in a more positive spotlight, in stead of constantly focusing on the crimes happening in our industry.
Yet, that's all I've seen mayor Eberhard van der Laan do, talking about human trafficking and commercial rape. I've never heard him talking about what a great atmosphere the Amsterdam Red Light District has, what opportunities prostitution offers, or how much money girls can make in this industry. He still hasn't done anything for prostitutes to get a bank account, to get a loan, to get a mortgage, or any of the other things he mentioned. All I've heard him do was advocating against prostitution, and that's never helped any job to normalize. So perhaps it's time Eberhard van der Laan starts to do what he claims to be doing, and to normalize prostitution, in stead of constantly stigmatizing it with his false statements about commercial rape and crime.

Dutch version
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    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.