City center council meeting: Q&A
This is the third and last part about the Amsterdam city center council meeting. You can read the first part here. In this part I will answer the most important questions the politicians themselves asked during this meeting, which regards improving the position of sex workers, the waterbed effect moving into illegal prostitution, and how big the problem of PTSD is.

For those of you that wish to look back the entire meeting, you can watch it back online on this link.

Here goes:

I would also like to take the opportunity to answer some of the questions some of the politicians asked during this meeting. These questions have already been answered by Yolanda van Doeveren, but as you can see her information isn't always good, so I'll take this opportunity to answer some of these questions coming from a prostitute herself, rather then a propaganda instrument from a city government that's goal it is to reduce prostitution windows under false pretenses.

Questions from mr. Alexander Hammelburg (D66):
What are some of the more concrete things you're doing to improve the position of sex workers?
Basically not much. The city government is primarily working on offering help to victims, but thusfar the city government and the prostitution program hasn't done much about improving our position. We still have trouble to open normal bank accounts, let alone getting a business bank account (although Yolanda van Doeveren makes it sound like this isn't a problem anymore). Getting a loan or a mortgage however is still out of the question. My last attempt to get a mortgage for a house for me and my boyfriend stranded after trying with 12 different banks.
A large part of improving the position of sex workers has to do with the image prostitution has. That image is right now extremely negative, since people immediately associate prostitution with girls being forced and human trafficking, or dirty, sleazy disgusting women with no values for their own life or hygiene.
Ironically the city government itself plays a large role in the negative image surrounding prostitution. Their constant hammering on the problems of human trafficking, which really isn't as big as they claim, and reducing windows in the Red Light District, has caused the general opinion of people to be very negative towards prostitution. Amsterdam's Red Light District is the public face of prostitution in Holland, and by giving off such a negative image about prostitution here (which is far from reality might I add), reflects on the entire prostitution industry in Holland itself. A mayor that keeps closing down windows, publicly stating he's doing this to reduce the huge amounts of girls being forced in our industry, is not only a pure lie, it stigmatizes prostitutes as victims, gives the entire industry a bad name, and causes the position of prostitutes to become more unstable.
Yes, there are girls working in this industry who are forced, this is however a very small part of all of the prostitutes, although nobody can tell exactly how many. Most cases about human trafficking however do not revolve around forced girls, but exploited girls, girls that were financially exploited but the choice to do this job was one of their own. In reality you'll find girls that are really forced are really hard to find, simply because there are just not that many of them around. Girls who are being exploited are a bigger problem, one to which I already explained exactly how it worked, and how to solve it, in this post here.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the 'klankbordgroep' of sex workers, the thinking machine and co-creators of this policy?
Yes, this group is very small, and very few girls from the prostitution industry are involved, let alone know about it's existence. Calling the group the 'co-creators and thinking machine' of this policy would be laughable, since it's a group of around 20 women, which is about 0.5% of the (lowest) estimated prostitutes working in Amsterdam, and not even 2,5% (if all of them would be window prostitutes) of the 900 window prostitutes.
Truth is, most prostitutes have very little knowledge about what's going on. This is partially because many women don't care, because they don't want to bother themselves with politics. But for the largest part because the city government doesn't inform them on what's happening, nor do many prostitutes know that there is this 'klankbordgroep'.

By the way Alexander, if you really think the prostitution industry is such a shady, hidden world, perhaps you should come and talk to us, in stead of Yolanda, perhaps that would improve your view on this industry. My idea is that you think this world is very shady, because lots of people talk very shady about it, to keep you in the dark about the realities of this industry. Come and talk to us, and you'll see we're just as shady as you are.

Questions from miss. Eva de Vries (D66):
Regarding the renting of windows on a daily base, and basically agreeing to a contract every day. Have the window renting conditions been improved?
As you can read here in my previous post extensively, the conditions to renting a window aren't as bad as you've been told. The city government did have something to do with the brothel owners offering us now a 2 months vacation period to take free, so in this case indeed they have improved. But don't worry, we're not stuck to a contract of any kind, we're free to go when and where we want.

Questions from mr. Michiel Wetzer (SP):
I wonder about the waterbed effect, sex workers that are moving into illegal prostitution as a result of the normalization.
A very good question, but let me adjust it a little bit. Indeed there are many girls moving into illegal prostitution, although Yolanda van Doeveren denies this by claiming 'we don't see many window girls for example moving into illegal massage salons'. Indeed you won't find many window prostitutes moving into illegal massage salons, and why would they? Behind the windows they're their own boss, and nobody tells them what to do or how to work. Working for a massage salon however (legal or illegal), means you work for a boss, something most window prostitutes really don't want. So indeed not many window prostitutes end up in illegal massage salons, you'll probably find them more moving into illegal home prostitution, or renting an apartment specifically to work in as an illegal prostitute.
Not too long ago the EO their show Dit Is De Dag spend some time covering this subject (view the episode here). And although they've tried to make illegal prostitution look very shady and unsafe, the position of the women seen in this documentary isn't that bad at all.
Also recent numbers show an increase in the numbers of illegal prostitutes growing, and although many will still deny it at this moment, some of these women are indeed former window prostitutes.
The mistake in your question is actually assuming that this waterbed effect is due to the normalization, because this is only the reason for a few women. A bigger reason for more women to move into illegal prostitution, is because there are simply less legal workplaces then before, because more and more windows keep closing down, as is the case in Amsterdam as well. Last year 300 women lost their legal workplace in Utrecht, Amsterdam itself already closed down 109 windows, nationally more then 600 legal prostitution windows have been closed, and in total 1/3 of all the legal workplaces for prostitutes have been closed down since the regulation in 2000. In other words, the numbers of places a girl can work legal are decreasing enormously. These women don't just stop this job, since they have very legit reasons for doing this work. Therefor you'll see many girls moving into illegal prostitution, since there are less and less legal places they can execute this work.
Expect illegal prostitution to be growing exponentially as long as city governments keep deciding to close down the few legal places for prostitution that are left.

Questions from mr. Roeland Rengelink (PVDA):
I've heard from the doctors and nursus at the P&G 292 that many prostitutes have PTSD, because if that's the case it's not the question anymore of how many women are victims of trafficking, but then the entire industry would be extremely unhealthy.
Ah, what else could I have guessed coming from the PVDA, but a negative sneer to try and make prostitution look as negative as possible. Although prostitution can be a stressful job, I doubt that many prostitutes would have a PTSD, for the very simple reason: where would we need to get this from? We should get PTSD from getting fucked? If that would be the case, then sex on itself could be considered unhealthy. Are you going to try and make sex look bad as well now?
Fact is that the P&G 292 for most girls is just a place to do the SOA test. The people at the P&G 292 don't examine the girls who just come for a check up on PTSD. I guess the girls who have been examined for PTSD, had a good reason to be examined, which is because they were a victim of something, for instance human trafficking.
But assuming that a PTSD comes from this job is even taking it one step to far. PTSD can come from many things not related to prostitution, that can still happen to prostitutes. So just because a prostitute has PTSD, doesn't automatically mean she got it from this job. And I sincerely doubt many girls would get PTSD from doing this job in the first place.
But let's just assume for a second that they would get PTSD from this work. Would that be a reason to call this industry 'unhealthy'? And would unhealthy be a reason not to support this profession anymore? After all, the largest group of people with PTSD are people from the army, a job not only supported, but even constructed by the government. Should we just quit the army, because soldiers have a big chance of getting PTSD? I don't think so. And do you call being a solder an unhealthy profession? I guess you could say that, but then again that would be kind of a weird argument, since I think a lot of people think very positive about soldiers.
Stop trying to find reasons to make prostitution look bad, and pay more attention to both the positive and the negative sides. You seem purely focused on condemning prostitution as a negative thing, and that way prostitutes will never become independent and 'empowered' women, and it will certainly not help any victims.
Yolanda van Doeveren made it sound in her answer like we're having sex with every client that comes along, by her statement: 'if you calculate how many clients a prostitute needs to make some money, you even cannot imagine how that would work physically'. Fact is that we don't have so much actual sex with our customers as people often assume. So it's not like you're fucking with every client that comes along. I wrote extensively about our customers and what actually happens inside here. Some clients don't have the intention to have sex, most do, but then again most of them can't even get it hard to have sex with. In the end you don't even have sex with half of your clients.

Questions from mr. Alexander Hammelburg (D66):
What is the status of the corporation of sex workers in development itself?
An excellent question, since most prostitutes have no idea this thing even exist. In fact, I even wonder if this is really happening at all. I've read in an article from Ilonka Stakelborough, that her foundation Geisha is working on that, and I think this is what Yolanda van Doeveren is talking about.
But then again, the article also mentions something about working contracts that are completely false, like I explained in the first post here. And Ilonka Stakelborough also often mentions she has contact with over 600 prostitutes, yet nobody in the sex industry has contact with this woman. I've tried a couple of times to get in touch with her, but she seemed reluctant to be in contact with me.
Honestly I think this corporation is just a project Ilonka claims to be working on, in order to receive funding. In reality however I don't think she's really setting something up. No women from the Red Light District are involved with this as far as I know, nor could anyone else point me to any women being involved with this.
In short, the status is dead. If they are really working on a corporation, I'd like to see some actual proof of that, besides claims from people that often make false claims. Who are these women that are involved with the corporation? Names, numbers, anything?!

These are some of the major points I've picked out from the meeting, of course there might be some smaller things I've missed, and there was also some good information. For example Yolanda van Doeveren mentioned that the new rules the city government set up for the brothel owners are really strict, and it's a lot of work for the brothel owners to implement all of these rules in their company, and she also mentions that the brothel owners are all working very hard on this with good results (quite the opposite from the image we got from the mayor, like I wrote about in my last post here).

Read here part 1 about our working contracts and conditions.
Read here part 2 about the our involvement in the policies.

Dutch version
City center council meeting: The co-creators of this policy
This is the second part about the Amsterdam city center council meeting, you can read part 1 here. In this part I will talk about the co-creators of this prostitution policy, the prostitutes themselves, and how much we were really involved in the making of these policies. I will also discuss here the part about improving the position of sex workers and empowering them, and what the city government in reality does about that, and about prevention.

For those of you that wish to look back the entire meeting, you can watch it back online on this link. I'll also put a time frame at my mentions, so you can keep track of what part of the meeting I'm talking about exactly.

Here goes:

Yolanda van Doeveren also mentioned that they've talked with many prostitutes (1.17.41). Of course I don't know what she calls 'many', but I've never even heard of her or her entire 'prostitution program' before the start of this meeting, and I'm almost 100% sure the other girls that work with me didn't talk with them either, so I wonder who the hell she did talk with.
She mentions that it's very 'unique' in Holland that prostitutes 'in large numbers' have been actively involved with the creation of the policies regarding prostitution in Amsterdam, a co-creation she calls it. I think she means the monthly meeting at the P&G 292, a meeting most prostitutes don't even know exists, and monthly gets visited by around 5 to 20 prostitutes. Thinking about the roughly 7000 to 4000 estimated prostitutes in Amsterdam, and the 900 prostitutes working behind the windows, around 20 girls is hardly something I would call 'large number of prostitutes. Yolanda van Doeveren makes it sound like the prostitutes have been involved on a large scale with the creation of these policies, but I can assure you that's very far from the truth.
I often see people claim things about their contact with prostitutes. Some people complain that it's hard to get in touch with prostitutes. Partially that's true, not many girls give a damn about what other people have to say about us, all they care about is making money. But then again, if you never go out in the nights (when most of the women work) to come to us, then the chance to get in touch with us is pretty small. After all, most of the girls behind the windows don't speak Dutch, they don't follow the Dutch news and they're not interested to look up things about their job in their spare time. It's a typical example of how most of the girls like to keep their work and private life separated, and one of the major reasons I don't target my blog to my colleagues, since I'll know that 99% of them will never even start to look for it.
Other people always claim they have good contacts with many prostitutes, they know them intimately and often also personally. A good example of someone like this is Frits Rouvoet for example. These people always think they know everything that's going on with us, because they talk to a few girls. In reality however the number of girls they talk to are often exaggerated in order to give their claims more value. Fact is, that especially Romanian and Bulgarian women, really don't give a fuck about what other people say. They're not interested in what you have to say, and often will refuse to talk with you, because they just don't give a fuck. They're unfortunately not really like me, even though I wish they would be a bit more like me and would care a little bit more about how people treat us.
As for the case of Frits Rouvoet, I still haven't seen him, I guess his invisibility cloak is doing a really good job to avoid him from being seen by me. I did talk to some other girls though that did speak with him. Most girls mentioned that 'this idiot', as they called him, sometimes comes to them with roses or other small presents. Most of them simply ignore him, or pretend to be on the phone when he comes. Most of the girls really 'weren't interested in his bullshit', as they put it.
I guess the ones that are interested to talk with him, are the ones that are looking for help, which could explain why in his vision most girls are forced, since they're looking for someone to help them, and those are mainly the only ones he talks to. The other girls simply don't give a fuck about him or 'his bullshit'. Just so you guys know what's going on.

Yolanda van Doeveren also spoke about improving the position of sex workers and 'empowerment' (1.16.50). In reality however this mostly comes down to helping out victims, which is something that has nothing to do with 90% of the sex workers. After all, in what way is a prostitute who is not a victim 'empowered' or gets her position 'improved' by victim support? We are not victims. Why would I need victim support? That's not empowering me, that's just aiding help to victims, and falls under fighting trafficking, not under empowerment and improving my position.
Yolanda talks about how prostitutes have a bad position when it comes to negotiating the prices for our workplaces. But then again, who gave the window owners this monopoly position in the first place? The window owners have virtually no competition, meaning they can ask any price they want, since the city government keeps closing down windows. They know we're desperate for a workplace, and will pay almost any price they ask, since these are some of the few remaining legal workplaces for prostitutes. Also the closing down of windows in the past has only caused the prices for workplaces to rise at those times, so if there's one person responsible for those 'insanely' high window prices, it's the city government itself.
Though, in the past 4 and a half year that I've been working here, the prices have gone up with only 10 euro, something that I wouldn't call exactly a shocking amount. Let's face it, all prices constantly go up, and considering 10 euro in 4 years time, based upon 150 euro, isn't very much.

Yolanda van Doeveren also talked about prevention (1.19.27), and with that obviously she's talking about preventing women from becoming victims of human trafficking. In reality however things come down more to preventing women from entering prostitution in the first place, which is also the reason why they call it the barrier model, which I still think is a weird idea for something that's considered a legal job. Their idea is that if they do an intake interview with a girl, that this will prevent human trafficking. Unfortunately she's sadly mistaking.
If a girl comes to you and would be a victim, she already is a victim, so you're not preventing anything, you're just stopping it from happening on your doorstep. Those girls that are forced will just be pushed by their pimp to go somewhere else, to another country perhaps, or to another city, or work in illegal prostitution. You're not preventing human trafficking in this way, you're just pushing them somewhere else, to make it someone else his problem.
But more importantly, the intake interview itself is laughable. I did the intake interview with my office, and if they can figure out if I'm forced or not based on those questions, I'll give them all a brand new Ferrari. Fact is, it's virtually impossible to find out through an intake interview if a girl is being forced or not, especially with these stupid questions. And let's be honest, even if a girl would be forced, she would never say this in an interview.
Preventing girls from becoming victims of human trafficking (which for the largest part exists out of women being exploited and not so much really forced), doesn't start with making it more difficult for them to come to work here. It starts by providing good, legal and safe alternatives to the services the human traffickers now offer. Like I explained in this blog before, most girls that are victims of human trafficking, are girls that need these traffickers to help them out to get started over here. If the government would provide these girls with help to get started over here, most of these girls wouldn't need the help of these traffickers, and would've prevented most of the trafficking simply by providing a service.

Another interesting thing Yolanda van Doeveren mentioned quickly, was that according to her there are more human trafficking cases in court then before (1.15.40), and also the number of investigations has gone up incredibly much. This is however completely the opposite of what her own report shows, as I've explained in detail already in this post here. The number of girls pressing charges from 2012 to 2013 (which is the period she is talking about), has dropped from 124 to only 32 (74% less). The number of suspects has dropped from 35 to 21 (40% less). Also the number of investigations has dropped from 195 to 72 (63% less).
So I don't know if Yolanda read her own report, but what she states is completely the opposite of reality, and completely the opposite of what her own report says about it. In fact, every number in her report regarding human trafficking show's an incredible decrease, which is quite the opposite of what she's saying here.

Read here part 1 about our working contracts and conditions.
Read here part 3 with the answers to some of the most important questions the politicians had.

Dutch version


City center council meeting: Working contracts
So a couple of weeks ago the city center council of Amsterdam had a meeting regarding the progress on project 1012. The project that was designed to reduce 'criminogene' activities and upgrade the city's center by removing 'low economic valued' companies and replacing them with high class businesses, had for long been a discussion in Amsterdam.
The city council has always proclaimed the project was about gaining back control in the Amsterdam Red Light District, taking back control from the criminals, from the mob, from the human traffickers and pimps. In reality the project has always been a project to reduce the Red Light District area with it's window prostitution and coffeeshops with 40%, in hopes of attracting a different type of tourist.
Prostitution windows have been closed under the pretenses of 'fighting human trafficking', but in reality is nothing more then an attempt to reduce the Red Light District area itself and the tourists that visit it.

Thusfar 109 prostitution windows have been closed down (or actually bought for 31 million euro), under the claim of fighting human trafficking. In reality many women lost one of the few still legal workplaces for prostitutes in this country, and were left unattended for by the city government. Where these women are now nobody knows, but with the recent closing of 150 windows in Utrecht, and more windows threatened to close in Amsterdam (read here), it's not hard to guess where these women went to. Many left the country in favor of other countries that offer a safe haven for prostitution, like Germany. Many others continued their work in illegal prostitution, something that only recently have come to the attention of the authorities.

During the meeting, that was open to the public, director of the Amsterdam prostitution program Yolanda van Doeveren was there to explain the city center council what she's been doing with her program and what the results were. I listened closely to what she had to say, with the help of my boyfriend, and was shocked. Some of the things she says are completely true, other things however seemed to have been pure propaganda from the mayor, to ensure his project 1012 wasn't at risk.
Another thing that shocked me, was the complete lack of information and knowledge the politicians had regarding prostitution. They seem to have no idea even how things work, let alone that they could spot the (many) false pieces of information that was given out to them in order to deceive them.

For those of you that wish to look back the entire meeting, you can watch it back online on this link. I'll also put a time frame at my mentions, so you can keep track of what part of the meeting I'm talking about exactly. I've also split the entire meeting into three parts, since the meeting was over 3 hours long, and I wanted to make sure I made everything very clear to everyone. This part will focus on the working contracts, check at the bottom of this posts for the second part about the involvement of the prostitutes itself with the policy and the third part in where I answer some of the questions the politicians had directly.
Here comes the first part:

One of the biggest pieces of misinformation was about working contracts (1.39:10). Yolanda van Doeveren explained women working behind the windows rent their rooms day by day, and this is absolutely true. But then she claimed something that is completely false. She claimed that window owners make contracts with prostitutes that are for a longer period then just one day, mostly one week.
I think Yolanda van Doeveren has been talking and listening too much to Ilonka Stakelborough, because I recognize this from a newspaper article from a while back, which I also wrote about on my blog here. But since some things have changed a bit, let me make it one more time really clear.
There are NO contracts. All women in the Red Light District rent their windows on a day by day base. Prostitutes can get a fixed room for themselves, in which case the window owner will reserve that particular window just for that girl, but under no circumstances are contracts being signed or made.

Getting a fixed room for yourself means basically nothing more that the window owner won't rent out the window to another girl. And of course, if you don't show up (for whatever reason), and the window owner was counting on you, and the next day you show up again, then indeed you have to pay for that room if you want the same room again. If you don't show up anymore, you don't have to pay.
Actually it's a very simple deal. If you have a fixed room, the rooms is yours as long as you pay for it. If you don't pay for the room anymore (because you didn't show up for example), you loose the room. Of course you can still get another room, but in no way are girls held back to quit this job, or otherwise take a day off without paying for it.
But even if you want to take a day off without risking to loose you own room afterwards, the window owner provides plenty of services. Let's say you have your own room, and you don't want to work 7 days. The window owner allows you to take two free days a week without paying for it, and without loosing the room. If you want to get a break from work for a longer period, for example to go on vacation, the window owner allows you besides those two free days a week, the opportunity to take up to maximum two months(!) of free days.

In reality this basically comes down to the fact that most girls who have a fixed room, take one or two free days a week. When they go on vacation they just tell this to their office, and they can take two months free. If they wish to take more then two months free, and still want to come back to their own room, they can do that if they pay for the room during the period that extends the two months. Of course they can also choose not to, no problem at all, but then there's a chance that another girl will have the room when they get back, and the girl will have to rent a different room.
But let me make things very clear to everyone, that under no circumstances are girls held back by contracts to quit this job, because they have their own room. If they want, they can quit any minute of the day. And even if you rent your room, that still doesn't mean you actually have to work, just as long as you pay for the room, the window owner doesn't care if you're working or not.
Yolanda van Doeveren her claim that in reality many women work 7 days a week, because they have to pay for their room seven days a week, is completely false, it isn't even allowed anymore to work 7 days a week. These women can take two free days a week, and if they get sick, they can just take a week off without having to pay for it, without loosing the room.

This is it for the first part. The meeting was over 3 hours long, and I wanted to make sure that the things I wrote down here are absolutely clear to everyone, so there can be no mistakes regarding the answers. I've split the entire meeting into three parts.

Read here part 2 about the our involvement in the policies.
Read here part 3 with the answers to the most important questions from politicians.

Dutch version
More prostitution windows closing down?
Last week messages came from the media that 47 prostitution windows were going to close down in Amsterdam's Red Light District. According to the articles in the media, one brothel owner doesn't follow the new rules the city government set up at the beginning of this year, in the fight against human trafficking. The articles also mentions 3 human trafficking victims used to work behind these windows, and possibly 20 more victims are still behind the windows.

I find it a bit premature to speak of closing down windows. After all, the windows aren't closing for sure yet, and even if they do, they’ll make that decision in December final and not right now. I therefore also think it’s a bit strange the mayor comes out with this news right now, since he’s not immediately going to close down the windows, but he’s nearly threatening to not renew the temporary permit into a new final permit in December.

What’s really going on behind those windows I don’t know. I've never worked for that brothel owner, and don’t know many girls that work there. So I can’t say much about the rumors of human trafficking. All I can rely on are the facts as we know them already, and those facts point out that police often has suspicions of human trafficking that in most cases turn out to be false. This can be seen in the last report the city government made about human trafficking in Amsterdam (only 33% of their suspicions turned out to be an actual victim), which I explained here, but also in the article I wrote about the results of the last human trafficking campaign here (which points out 93% of the suspicions fails), and we also know the police themselves once made a report claiming that 50 to 90% of the girls would be victims, which has also never been proven yet, as you can read here.
In short, just because authorities claim to think there are still women working there that are victims, doesn't make it true. They're just suspicions, and the police has proven in the past not to be very accurate with these suspicions. 

But the reason for closing down these windows doesn't have so much to do with human trafficking itself, but rather with the brothel owner not following the new rules. After all, if the situation regarding human trafficking was really as bad as the articles make it sounds, the mayor at all times has every right to immediately close down windows purely based on suspicions, they don't even need real proof, as we've also learned from what happened last year in Utrecht.
All window owners right now work under a temporary permit until the end of the year. This gives the brothel owners time to adjust their company policies to the new rules the city government came up with to fight human trafficking. At the end of the year the city government will only give out a final permit to those window owners that successfully followed the new rules. And apparently this brothel owner isn't one of them, although the time to make that call hasn't even been finished yet, they still have time until December. This is also the reason I find it a bit premature to talk about closing down windows, nothing’s going to close for sure yet. The brothel owner could still decide to rapidly improve things, and follow the new rules. He could also fight the decision and go in appeal to this decision (although officially the decision hasn't been made yet, but will be made in December).

In short, this is nothing more than a warning from the mayor, and apparently he felt it was necessary to play this one out in public. What his motives are to play this game through the media, I don’t know. It could be another way of reminding the public of all the bad things happening here, as he claims, to get more support to close down more windows. It could also just be a way to put more pressure on the window owner to get things straightened out.

If the windows do close down however, this doesn't automatically mean there won’t be any prostitution windows though. Another owner could still buy the windows and use them as prostitution windows, although he would need a new permit for these windows. And seeing how difficult city governments can be to get a permit for window prostitution, for example in Utrecht where the city government keeps changing the rules to get a permit, I have some doubts they’ll ever get a permit for these windows.
After all, closing down more windows was already part of the city government their plan called project 1012. In these plans they've still got 100 windows scheduled for closure. These 47 windows would get the city government a lot closer to achieving their goal, so I doubt they’ll let that chance slip.

So, if the current owner won’t get a new permit, there’s a good chance there will be 47 prostitution windows less in Amsterdam, causing about 150 women (according to the newspapers) to lose their legal, safe and protected workplace. Adding these 47 windows, on the already 109 windows that have closed down in Amsterdam thus far, and the 1/3 closed down prostitution windows in the Netherlands itself, this leaves very little options for these women to find another place to work.

And although Yolanda van Doeveren, director of the prostitution program in Amsterdam denies it, many girls will enter illegal prostitution. Her argument during the last city center council meeting, that window prostitutes aren't moving into illegal prostitution ‘because they hardly see girls moving into illegal massage salons’, is laughable. It takes no scientist to find out that window prostitutes have no skills to work in a massage salon, legal or illegal, nor would they be interested in working for a boss like they would in a massage salon. More likely they’ll start doing illegal home prostitution or rent a place to work in somewhere else illegal.

Yolanda van Doeveren her claim restricts herself only to illegal massage salons for a reason. After all, she knows illegal prostitution is growing, as can be seen in the recent numbers of prostitution in almost every report. Their claim that they don’t know why this is happening, is just because they don’t want to admit that closing down windows is the cause of this, and that it was a bad idea in the first place. After all, if you close down more than 1/3 of all the legal places where women can work, don’t be surprised that it will continue illegal. These women still have bills to pay, and their mind is set on making a lot of money, so a career switch isn't an option for these women.

No, closing down windows only results in losses to almost everyone, except the city government and the real human traffickers and pimps. The brothel owners loose yet again dozens of windows, the women loose again dozens of legal workplaces were control and safety are key, but can anyone tell me what the bad guys their loss is? If the aim is to fight human trafficking, then how come the only one that doesn't get hurt by these measures are the human traffickers themselves?

No, the victims of this policy are not the human traffickers and the pimps. They get off the hook. The real victims of this policy from the city government are the prostitutes, the very people they’re pretending to protect are the biggest loser in all of this. The victims of trafficking will disappear off the grid, causing authorities to lose them out of sight, and not being able to give these victims any help. The free working women just lose their place to work, and are left without a legal workplace, while the bills are still coming in.

If the policies to close down windows are to fight human trafficking, they’re not just failing big time, they’re even making the situation for both victims and free working prostitutes much worse. And the worst part is, those pimps get off the hook again, so in no way is closing down the windows helping in the fight against human trafficking, in fact, it just makes things worse.

The only two ways I would see to prevent this from happening is if either the city government themselves take over the brothel. That way they’re responsible themselves for following the rules, and responsible for the girls. But they don’t want that. And the other option would be to let the girls themselves take over the brothel in a corporation. The city government already said they are working on setting up a corporation with prostitutes, so they become the brothel owners themselves, perhaps it’s time to prove this claim is true, and not just one of those lies they often tell.

If indeed the current brothel owner didn't follow the rules, I agree he shouldn't get a new permit. But if those windows aren't available to prostitution anymore, you’re creating more victims then there might have been if you would've left things alone. The only option to make sure the winners aren't the pimps and traffickers, is to let a corporation of prostitutes take over the brothel themselves. That way the bad are punished, and the good are rewarded. Although I doubt the city government is really interested in all of this. I think they’re just looking for an excuse to close down windows, and will use anything they can find, any slightest hint, as a reason to get to their goal: less prostitution no matter what.

They can try to disguise it as ‘saving women from sex trafficking’, but fact is that closing down prostitution windows only creates more victims instead of less. Give these windows to the women themselves in a corporation. That way they control prostitution, not the brothel owner, they are responsible for their own fate, and only that way the prostitutes will gain more independence and self empowerment.

The windows aren't closing just yet, but the threat is real. My fear is that the city government will yet again create more victims by repeating their mistakes of closing windows down. If you think about it it's really funny. It's the city government that does the most forcing in prostitution, in this case forcing women into illegal prostitution, where there's less protection, and more chance of becoming a victim of human trafficking. After all, how many pimps did the city government catch by closing down prostitution windows thus far?

Dutch version


Less human trafficking in Amsterdam
Human trafficking is decreasing immensely in Amsterdam. This is the conclusion of a report made by the city government of Amsterdam itself about the developments of prostitution in 2013 (report here).
The report itself shows that from the 124 victims who pressed charges for human trafficking in 2012 numbers have now decreased to only 32 victims in 2013, a decrease of 74%! Also the number of human trafficking suspects that were prosecuted has decreased from 35 suspects in 2012 to only 21 suspects in 2013, a decrease of 40%.

The report shows quite a different image from what people have been getting about prostitution in Amsterdam, and specifically about the Red Light District. With percentages of 50%, 80% and 90% politicians have tried in the last couple of years to give the image to people that prostitution in Amsterdam, and specifically in the Red Light District, was a crime filled environment. But yet again cold hard facts point in a different direction. Just like with the anti-human trafficking campaign results as I talked about here, and all the police raids they've done in the past years in different cities with window prostitution, but also with illegal prostitution, it turns out the real numbers of human trafficking are far lower then that.

As the report states, last year in 2013, there were 21 people prosecuted for human trafficking. In total 7 cases (33%) resulted in a complete clear of all human trafficking charges. In all of the cases where charges were cleared regarding human trafficking, the prostitute herself claimed not to be a victim of human trafficking, but was branded by the district attorney as victim. In other words, she wasn't a victim, but because the district attorney and the police were convinced she was a victim, it had to come to a court case to prove that the girl wasn't a victim after all. This also leaves only 14 people who were convicted of human trafficking from all the 21 people who were prosecuted in 2013, an extremely low number if you compare if to the 4000 to 6000 prostitutes that are reportedly working in Amsterdam.
But also the number of victims who pressed charges, 32 in 2013 compared to the 124 in 2012 has decreased immensely with 74%. Based on the 4000 to 6000 prostitutes that are working in Amsterdam, this comes down between 0,8% and 0,5% of the total amount of legal working prostitutes working in Amsterdam. This number is very low considering the earlier made statements by both politicians and police that the numbers of human trafficking in prostitution would be around 50 to 90%. Especially if you realize that more victims are coming from illegal prostitution.

According to the district attorney of Amsterdam for human trafficking cases herself, Jolanda de Boer, this is just the tip of the ice berg, or so she wants to make us believe in an article that was posted in July of this year in a local newspaper.
Her words are: 'We still don't know if it's about ten or eighty percentage of the prostitutes that are being abused in Amsterdam. But even with ten percent we're still talking about 400 cases a day.'
Her words look remarkably close to the exact words of mayor Eberhard van der Laan, which were later copied word for word by party member of the PVDA, Marjolein Moorman. In fact, these are the exact same words he and Moorman used, the only difference is that Jolanda de Boer, district attorney, doesn't dare to use the words rape in this case.
I think it's remarkable that a district attorney copies the exact words of a politician, especially since the words are twisted to give people the wrong impression, like I explained here. In fact, district attorney Jolanda de Boer seems to become political with these words, and clearly choose a political side, something I don't think is a good thing for the independence of the justice system in this country. I think it's highly undesirable that a district attorney becomes political in her function, especially when it comes to manipulating the public's opinion about things, with phrases like these.

Jolanda de Boer claims in the article that these 'twenty to thirty cases a year' however are just the tip of the ice berg. But whoever looks deeper into the report comes to a different conclusion. In 2013 window prostitutes were checked 1968 times by the city governments own controllers, on top of the 567 checks from the police. That's in total 2535 checks for around 900 women who are working behind the window in Amsterdam in total, meaning each prostitute gets checked around three times a year. From those 2535 window checks 11 times police and/or controllers from the city government picked up signs of human trafficking (read here more about those).
Jolanda de Boer claims the reason why we don't see more of the tip of this particular ice berg, is because of a lack in man power. However with 2535 checks a year on 900 women and only 11 reported possible victims I sincerely doubt that. They have man power enough to check each woman 3 times a year, and still they where only able to find 11 possible victims.
It's also pretty sure to say those 11 'possible victims' that were reported by them included the 7 cases in were women objected being a victim. After all, it wouldn't make sense if she would have pressed charges herself if she didn't consider herself to be a victim. So we can say pretty sure that the at least 7 women (because every case involves at least one women, but could also involve more women) come from that group of 11 women that were reported by the police and controllers themselves.
This would conclude that in at least 63% of the cases (7 from all 11 even reported women) police and controllers reported a girl as victim, although she denies, and it's also proven later in court that this was not the case. A typical example of how often police and controllers have a wrong image about people in prostitution.

That police and controllers often get the wrong image about things in prostitution is not something new. Many prostitutes, in fact I think even most prostitutes, report that police often sees them as victims, and often sees their partners (either boyfriends or husbands) as pimps. These statistics confirm that image as in at least  63% of the cases police and controllers got the wrong image, and the suspect was set free after trial.
I myself have experience with this when the police told me during an interrogation a couple of years ago that they though also I was a victim of trafficking. In their opinion it was 'very suspicious' that I was always alone (I hadn't met my boyfriend at the time), yet other women are often being seen as possible victims when they're with their boyfriend or husband. So apparently to the police it doesn't matter if you're single or not, either way you're suspicious, and they see you as a victim, something these numbers prove.

Another interesting number the report mentions is the number of illegal prostitution. In 2012 there were still 41 reports of illegal prostitution, in 2013 this was 58 reports. This means the number of reported illegal prostitution has gone up with 41%.
That illegal prostitution is getting growing is not something that only this report shows. In fact, almost every report about prostitution shows this, and also many journalists have reported about this as well, like for instance Dit was de Dag from the EO did a while ago.
So there seems to be a trend of illegal prostitution growing, which does sound logical, since every year the number of legal workplaces for prostitutes are decreasing. Since 2008 in total 109 windows have been closed (23%) in Amsterdam, and only 401 remain today, with an additional 100 windows still scheduled for closure. Also on a national level we see the numbers of legal workplaces for prostitutes decreasing, with for example the closure of more then 100 windows in Utrecht last year. In fact, from the estimated 2000 windows since the regulation of prostitution, 665 windows have been closed until now, that's 33% of all legal prostitution windows. And still they wonder why illegal prostitution is growing?
What we've learned from illegal prostitution from the numbers of the previous campaign against human trafficking, is that illegal prostitution is for 61% responsible (read here) for human trafficking. Not weird, after all, illegal prostitution happens uncontrolled, without any protection, thus the chance for human trafficking is naturally higher then in a controlled and protected situation like legal prostitution.
So 'cleaning up' the Red Light District from crime didn't actually happen, in fact, there was never as much crime there as people claimed. And in stead of helping women, they've pushed many women out of legal prostitution, leaving them no other choice but to do it illegal, with as a consequence that now women can become easier victim of human trafficking then before.

On top of that the obligated registration at Chambers of Commerce, to register yourself as prostitute in stead of professional services, as was allowed before, also had a huge impact. The report mentions a decrease in legal registered prostitutes, which is a logical consequence, since registering yourself in a public record as a prostitute is violating a prostitute their privacy rights, and as the report also concludes, had an unwanted effect that put women more in danger then it helped them. This was also the reason the city government later reversed this decision, allowing prostitutes again to be registered under different definitions, so they didn't have to put themselves at risk.

The report also mentions so called 'agencies' which help girls setting up their companies and other registration papers, as well as finding a place to life for these girls. The report calls it an 'unwanted effect', yet does not suggest any solution to this problem. Point of course is, that neither the city government nor the national government supports prostitutes in any way of getting started over here, leaving it all up for themselves in a country where bureaucracy seems to have been invented.
Like I talked about before in this post here, the reason why many girls need help is because it's incredibly difficult to arrange everything (permits, place to life, setting up your own company, registration, finances) by yourself. These so called 'agencies' they talk about in this report are the very people that are trying to help us do things the government refuses to do. Of course the chance that some of these 'agencies' take advantage of you is very well present, since they're not legal, but in absence of a legal alternative many women often don't have much choice. Fortunately for most women this goes well, but in some cases it does not, and agencies exploit these women, to which they become victims of trafficking.
Like I talked about in this post before here, if the government wants to prevent/stop trafficking, they need to offer the girls a legal alternative to something that happens now by 'illegal' agencies. In stead they only choose to see these agencies as an unwanted thing, and don't offer any solution to a problem that is clearly present.

But there are more things this report recognizes as problems, yet offers no solution to in the conclusion. The report mentions the fact that many of us are living in apartments which charge high prices for rent, something they've also recognized to be rather common. They've also recognized the fact that often these apartments are occupied by more prostitutes then just one girl.
The reason this problem exists of course is because our vulnerable position. The city government, which has done nothing more then send out negative information to the general public about our profession, has turned us into unwanted people. People are afraid to rent us apartments (as I've written about here recently), because we have a bad name, largely due to false allegations by the city government that prostitution is a crime filled industry (or criminogeen as they called it).
On top of that prostitutes still can't get a business bank account, in fact we even have trouble getting a regular bank account. We can't get any loans from banks (as a start up for our own business for instance, or as an advance to our rent), nor can we get a mortgage.
All these things create the effect that we are extremely limited in our choices for housing, leaving only rental apartments for a high price as an option, if we can find one at all. Those who can't find an apartment (not an uncommon thing) often seeks refuge at the apartment of one of their colleagues, thus creating the effect that often girls live in over-priced houses together.

When it comes to 'normalizing' prostitution and 'empowerment' for prostitutes however, all measures seem to be aimed at only rescuing victims or helping girls exiting the industry. No empowerment is given to prostitutes who don't want to exit the industry or are not victims. This shows yet again that the city government only sees us as victims who'd rather quit this job, then independent entrepreneurs.
In stead of offering us options to safely enter our job, by setting up a legal agency for prostitutes who helps you with all the paperwork, finding a place to life, finances etc. they come with more rules and regulations, and top of top of that try to find ways to fight the people helping us.
In stead of giving us more rights so we can rent normal apartments, get bank accounts, loans and mortgages, so we don't have to depend on over-priced private sector apartments and 'illegal agencies', we get new rules on top of recently introduced rules like for instance the raise of the minimum age of 18 to 21 (even though no minor was found during any of the 2500 checks in window prostitution). New rules include for instance an obligated intake interview with our office, obligation to follow hygiene guidelines etc. All rules aimed at finding victims or making our jobs more complex, but none aimed at really empowering us.
Also empowerment seems only to imply that you quit this job or get shelter as a victim of trafficking, apparently empowering yourself as a prostitute can only mean for the city government that you quit as a prostitute. Yet, real empowerment, like forbidding agencies to refuse prostitutes as residents of an apartment, or forbidding banks to refuse prostitutes as customers, is not on the list.
Also preventing women enter prostitution seems to be rather the target, then actually helping them in achieving what they want, to become independent sex workers. No, the city government rather helps you to avoid prostitution all together, leaving us only one option, getting help from 'illegal agencies', with as a possibility that we become victims of human trafficking.

The report shows us a glimpse of things that are really happening at the moment. A city government claiming huge amounts of victims, while the report shows us the problem is by far not as large as they claim, and is even decreasing. On top of that it shows us how wrong their image is about the world of prostitution, since most of their reported victims end up not being a victim at all in 63% of the cases.
It also shows that closing down the windows to stop human trafficking hasn't worked, in fact, problems only seem to have moved into illegal prostitution, where it's much more difficult to detect, control and help. Further more it shows that the city government still doesn't recognize prostitutes as independent business owners, since empowering prostitutes only seems to revolve around aiding victims and helping prostitutes quit this job. On top of that we, yet again, get to deal with more rules and regulation, while the real problems the report mentions aren't tackled, by giving prostitutes more rights.

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.