Sexworkers meet sexworkers without sexworkers
This week apparently the Aids Fund in Holland organized a meeting of sexworkers worldwide to come to Amsterdam to talk about prostitution and safety. Prostitutes from all over the world where invited apparently, except... well... us. Of course that's not a big deal, I mean, we're only the most famous prostitution area in the world, so why would it matter, right? I mean, it's not like they're coming over here to talk!
Oh, wait, they where? When? How? Aha, I see. Okay then. Hmmmm.

Apparently they're spending all week long here in Amsterdam, and even bring a visit to the Red Light District. It's kinda like someone throws you a birthday party in your backyard, just everyone forgot to invite you. In the newspapers you read all about sexworkers from countries like Uganda and other exotic sounding countries. But how many prostitutes from the Red Light District themselves got invited?
Well, as far as I know, none. I wasn't invited, in fact, I didn't even know about it until recently, and since I'm the only prostitute from the Red Light District online, I doubt they invited other girls from here without me knowing about it.
I wonder what the point is to meet here in Amsterdam, and even visit the Red Light District, if you're not gonna talk with the girls from the Red Light District themselves. The newspapers show a lot of African women, so if they wanted to talk to these women, and not to the girls from here, why didn't they just go to Africa?! What's the point of doing it here, if you're only gonna talk with people from everywhere else but here?!

But the most interesting part of this whole come together of prostitutes, was an article in the newspaper Metro today, which my boyfriend brought home from work to read to me (article online here). In the article it literaly states:

"Aangezien alle sekswerkers die we hebben uitgenodigd zich ook actief inzetten voor een betere situatie in hun land, kunnen ze veel van elkaar opsteken. Ook krijgen ze een goed beeld van de situatie in Nederland, waar prostitutie wél legaal is. Overigens denk ik dat Nederland nog wel iets kan leren van de mannen en vrouwen die nu op bezoek zijn. Wij willen hier nogal eens voor sekswerkers denken. Prostituees zouden ook in Nederland een grotere rol moeten spelen in het beleid om mensenhandel terug te dringen en de rechten van prostituees te bevorderen."

Translation:
"Since all the sexworkers we've invited are also active in their home country for a better situation in their country, they can learn a lot from each other. Also they get a good idea about the situation in Holland, where prostitution is legal. However I do think that we in Holland can learn things from the men and women who are visiting us here now. We have the tendency to think for sexworkers. Prostitutes in Holland should play a larger role in the policy to fight human trafficking and improve the rights of prostitutes."

Apparently I wasn't invited because I wasn't active enough? Is that what this article states? I mean, it's not really like I've been hiding in the bushes or something. I mean, if even people from the PVDA can find me, and take the trouble to talk with me (gratitude to Dennis Boutkan for that), then for sure an organisation that talks about us, in our backyard can at least have the courtesy to let us know they're doing something like this. I mean, why did sexworkers from all over the world get invited, except for the very girls that work here?
Or is the idea that we 'can't learn from each other', like the article states? And how can people get a good idea about the situation in Holland, specifically when visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District, if you don't invite any of us to explain the situation to them?
The most interesting part of this is that the answer to all these questions are in the article itself already. It states: "We have the tendency to think for sexworkers." And that's exactly what they've done again.

The funniest thing is, the next line about prostitutes in Holland, talks about how we should play a larger role in the policies and improving our rights. Yet, funny enough, by not inviting us, we can't! Because we didn't get invited! How are we supposed to get a larger role, if you people don't even inform us about stuff like this!
A perfect example of people talking and deciding thing for us again, however well they may mean it, but again we're not part of the debate about ourselves. And then people wonder why prostitutes never talk. Jeez, I wonder why?!
And let's be honest, I'm fighting very hard for my rights and better policies here, though there have been very few people really interested in it and took the trouble to contact me. They're all busy all over the world to improve policies, while the Red Light District in Amsterdam itself has only a handful of people, fighting off not only several political parties, a city government and a national government, but also the public opinion of everyone in this country.

Like always, they're talking again about us, but not with us. And then they're surprised we're not happy about that. They say they don't have time for everyone. Well, at least they seem to have time for everyone else, except the people the people in the backyard. Guess we're just not that important to them, I mean, we're only part of the most famous prostitution area in the world. Why would that matter, right?
And then they're surprised we've never heard of them before. It's very simple, if you want to talk to us, we're easy to find, any tourist in the world knows how to find us, so why can't you? It's not like we're hiding in the bushes or something, we're right there behind our windows, open for everyone to see. After all, that's the point of the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
You want to talk to us, talk to us! Come to us! It's not like you're inviting us over to you, so hereby we invite you to come over here! We're tired of constantly having other people talking about us, but never with us. Don't come here with your excuses that you don't have time. If you have time to show other people the Red Light District, you've also got time to talk to us sometime.

Dutch version


3 Responses

  1. Anonymous Says:

    It's no good telling me! I have no influence! On the other hand I, along with (say) 100, .... or .... 500 others, might jolt the establishment. First, I suggest that you work to get a few influential people around you who can mail these idiots (I see that you have Mariska Majoor and Laura Augustin on your side. Laura? OMG!!!).Then 'recruit' a bunch of men and women who are prepared to mail outfits like The Aids Fund in Holland. Imagine if as a result of this post 500 people blitzed that organisation with a simple message: "What the f**k do you think you are doing? Are you really that f**king incompetent? Do you really f**king care? Just a thought. Big Mouth


  2. Marcus Says:

    The article makes the point that the women are coming from other countries where AIDS is still a significant issue in order to get an insight into AIDS prevention. They could actually have gone to any West European a country for that. The point is that Amsterdam is a symbolic reference point. I agree that it would have been nice to include some of the women in De Wallen and maybe encourage an open dialogue in an informal setting. The visit to the red light district appears to be ‘to see that this can be an open and legal profession’ not something that is secret and furtive. It appears to have been an ‘eye opener’ to some of the delegates. I am only able to read the article in translation and the concluding sentences are a bit disjointed but they seem to be saying that prostitutes in The Netherlands should be more involved in decisions affecting them (rather than that an organisation has to do the thinking for them). If that organisation really thinks more involvement is a good thing, then they have clearly missed an opportunity to encourage that process. The suggestion that prostitutes in The Netherlands have things to learn from prostitutes operating in a transparently oppressive, restrictive environment with poor health care looks (to me) to be nothing more than a polite gesture to visitors. Nevertheless, I wish that you and some of your colleagues had been included!!!


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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.