Prostitution law proposal uses false statistics
A couple of weeks ago a law initiative was submitted to parliament, to criminalize clients that knowingly and willingly take advantage of prostitutes which are victims of trafficking. That may sound nice and noble at first, but there is much wrong with this law proposal. The initiative law bases itself for example on false statistics about the size of trafficking in prostitution, doesn't mention the fact that it is designed for only a handful of suspects a year, leaves too much room for interpretation and the results will be minimal while the negative side effects are huge.

The law proposal revolves around clients that knew, or 'could have known' that a prostitute they visited was a victim of human trafficking. The idea behind this is that it must be terrible to be forced into prostitution, but it must even be worse that clients that know about this don't do anything about it. And to display how 'large' the problems of human trafficking are, they use a police report from 2012 in the text of the law proposal. In the law proposal it states:

"For example in the Crime Analysis Sexual Exploitation 2012 of the police it states that 55% of the prostitutes are victims of sexual exploitation."

However, when you look at this police report, you will see that this 55% has been calculated using a doubtful calculation method. For example, they used the number of reported 'possible' victims of CoMensha from 2010, the same numbers on which the reports of the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking are based. And since we're talking here about 'possible' victims, these are not victims for sure, but sex workers with whom there are (minimal) suspicions that perhaps they could be victims. In other words, it's not sure at all that all these suspicions are correct.

In one of my previous posts I've already shown you some examples of how doubtful some of these suspicions are. For example tourists who come to Amsterdam to spend time with friends are being reported as 'possible' victims, while they're not even working in prostitution, but also prostitutes themselves are being reported who show no signs of trafficking whatsoever. And those are the reports that CoMensha sends each year to the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking to write a report about it.

Even though, still the number of 'possible' victims reported by CoMensha aren't even close to 55% of the prostitutes in Holland. After all, they reported 797 'possible' victims in 2010 in prostitution, while there are an estimated 20.000 prostitutes in Holland. Not even close to 55%, but closer to 4%. And this is the point where the police report all of the sudden starts to do something weird, calculating and manipulating the numbers, almost as if they want to get the numbers as high as possible.

For example, the police report uses the assumption that the police and other authorities and organisations would only see 7,3% of all hidden crimes. This assumption leads to the fact that they multiplied the 797 suspicions by 7,3% to calculate the 100%, resulting in a massive 10.917 victims. That these are first of all only suspicions, is being completely ignored in this report, but also the calculation method is highly doubtful. Even the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking wrote extensively about the doubtful statistics from this report in one of her own reports (from page 9).

According to the National Rapporteur there are several reasons why these numbers are not reliable, which she mentions one by one with an extensive explanation. But to give you an example of one of her reasons. If you would use the same calculation method the police report used for the year before and after, than the number of victims in only 3 years time would have more than doubled, from 6.080 in 2009 to a massive 13.080 in 2011. And even that is for the National Rapporteur highly unrealistic.
Besides that they also completely pass the notion that if there's more attention for something, like for example human trafficking in prostitution, this also results in a better view over the complete problem. So actually with that what the National Rapporteur is trying to say, is that the assumption of the police report, that police and authorities would only see 7,3% of all the trafficking issues in prostitution would be way too low, since if there's more focus on this issue, thus also results in a better overview.

And this begs the question why they used such exaggerating numbers to support their proposed law. Isn't there enough to base this law upon? After all, we're still talking about a sizable amount of victims a year, even if there aren't tens of thousands like how the police report wants to suggest.
And this is where we might have hid a crucial point. Because I talked with one of the initiative takers of this law, to whom I also spoke out about my criticism for this proposal. And from that conversation I learned that in reality we are only talking about a few cases a year this law would be useful for. At this moment these people get away with it because it's not punishable, but politicians don't want this small group to get away. So this is a custom made law, not designed for a large group of clients, but a few loners they are spending a lot of time on to catch.

But is all this trouble worth it? After all, the results will be minimal if there are only a few cases a year. Still a large group of customers gets very nervous about this law, since they simply can't know the women they visit are victims or not. After all, it's not that easy to tell, unlike how some Christians and feminists want us to believe. It's a hidden crime, the same reason the police and authorities would only see 7,3%, like the police report said itself.

But this is why the law proposal not only criminalizes people of whom it can be proven they knew about it, but also clients that 'should have known it'. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation on what is meant by 'should have known'. And this could lead to situations in which people suspect a client knowingly visited a forced prostitute, while in reality he didn't know about this. But because the suspicions are enough to put someone behind bars, since they 'should have known it', this leaves a lot of room on how to interpret this. Even The Council for the Judiciary calls this description too vague because it leaves too much room for interpretation.

So clients become scared that they will be incorrectly put away as someone who took advantage of a situation, while in reality this was not the case. And in these kind of situations, it doesn't help if people can be thrown in jail only based on the notion that 'they should have known'. In short, it doesn't have to be proven they knew it, if appearances are against you, you're fucked. This could lead to horrifying situations which we saw earlier this year in Holland, where clients were hunted down and eventually committed suicide because of this, even before they went to trail. They apparently did not see another way out, an example of people being judged guilty before the trial was even started. While in this country someone is still innocent until proven guilty.

In the beginning of the year they hunted down clients of a minor prostitute who offered her services in a hotel in Valkenburg. That this girl did this maybe on her own initiative, and wasn't forced at all like how her first testimony states, was kept quiet by the Public Prosecutor. It was only after the parents of the girl got involved that the girl suddenly changed her testimony to being exploited and forced. The Public Prosecutor however later changed the charges from being forced and exploited by a loverboy, to just making a minor work in prostitution. It was also not such an important thing for the Public Prosecutor, since anyone is by definition punishable if they let a minor work in prostitution (against their will or not), or if they visit one (whether they knew about it or not).

Also the fact that even the hotel staff thought the girl looked very mature for her age (they thought she was at least 18 or 19 years old), was kept quiet by the Public Prosecutor. The Public Prosecutor did show they had no sympathies for clients and hunted them down, almost as a prelude to this law proposal. 'Many wives will be surprised by the police at their door', a spokesperson of the Public Prosecutor said. The Public Prosecutor made it no secret they were after the clients, whether they knew about it that the girl was a minor or not, and would not keep it hidden for their families and friends.

Eventually this even led to two men committing suicide. The motives of the suicides itself may never surface, but it is clear that this was the result of they highly aggressive way in which the Public Prosecutor hunted down clients. I even got the impression that they were merely using this case as an example for this law proposal. But after two clients committed their suicide they Public Prosecutor got very quiet. This shows the highly aggressive and unwanted way how the Public Prosecutor treats suspects, and would treat clients in the future with this law proposal.

I therefore have no faith in the Public Prosecutor and their abilities nor desires to handle the future suspects of this law proposal carefully and with integrity, and I therefore also fully understand the fear many clients have if this proposal should pass in parliament. Destroying families, even leading up to suicides can never be the intention of a law which only focuses on a handful of cases a year. Yet, according to the initiative takers of this law proposal, this law would be a good way to pressure clients to report abuses if they come across any. Because obviously, who doesn't want to report things if this can have huge consequences for your private situation, and can even lead to people committing suicide?

I am in favor of taking down clients that knowingly and willingly take advantage of a forced prostitute. However, not every victim of trafficking is forced, and not every victim is doing her job against her will. But this law completely passes that notion. Above all, this law leans too much on doubtful statistics, it leaves too much room for interpretation, will have very little results because it only affects a small group of people a year and above all has extremely possible negative side effects of families being destroyed and possible suicides.

This law therefore looks more like a discouragement policy from politicians towards clients not to visit anymore prostitutes, to avoid the chance that they might be seen as a suspect by the Public Prosecutor, in stead of actually focusing on fighting human trafficking. After all, we are only talking about a handful of cases a year, and not a single trafficking case gets prevented by this. After all, for this law to work human trafficking has already happened, and due to the difficulties of providing proof in such cases it is doubtful it will have much result. The negative side effects however are large, especially for clients, but also for the sex industry itself, which according to the initiative takers isn't a goal on itself.

Dutch version
1 Response
  1. Police authorities should focus on fighting human trafficking because it is the main reason for the exploitation of sex workers.


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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.