Prostitution card for free entrepreneurship
A few days ago Maria Ruigrok from the VVD in Amsterdam came up with an interesting idea. A prostitution pass for prostitutes. The idea behind it is so you don't have to do an intake interview with each brothel owner every time you move to a new one, but that this can be done in one place. In short, it saves you having to do a new intake each time with a new brothel owner. In stead of separately with each brothel owner, you just do the intake in one place, and you'll get a card that proves you've done such an intake already.

According to Maria Ruigrok this is to make the prostitute less depending on the brothel owners. But this is kinda where she goes wrong. She assumes, like so many other people, that the brothel owners would be the problem for us. Fact is that for most girls this is not the case. In fact, 84% of the prostitutes is very positive about the brothel owners, as a recent research showed in the Red Light District. The most heard complaint about brothel owners are the rules, but than again, the brothel owners don't make all those new rules, that's the city government. So it's really more of a complaint about the city government, most girls however simply don't know it was the city government and not the brothel owner that came up with these new rules.

But I also fail to see how it would make us less depending on the brothel owners. Maria Ruigrok seems to have the idea we can't switch from brothels for some kind of reason, but that's not true at all. In fact, many girls switch from brothel owner to brothel owner. That's not because they want to switch each time, but because the city government has closed down so many windows, there's no place in the night for all the girls, so the girls keep having to move from one brothel owner on one day, to the next brothel owner the next day.

So this 'prostitution pass' won't give us more freedom of choice in choosing which brothel we want to work in. That isn't a problem right now, so there's no problem to 'fix' there. The problem there is however, is the fact that many girls have to move, because there aren't enough places due to the closures. That's the problem we asked a solution for at the demonstration on the 9th of April. And to be able to choose between brothel owners, there first of all has to be choice, which is something the city government has been heavily reducing in recent years.

But what worries me most is who gets the information from these intake interviews. At this moment our brothel owners get this information, and we trust them with it. After all, we see our brothel owner each day, and like I said, most have a good relationship with them. We trust our information more with them, than with a government which is adamant on closing down our workplaces.
And this is where the problem may be. If the only benefit of having this prostitution pass, is that you don't have to do so many intake interviews, not many girls will do it. Why? Most girls simply don't care. They've already done so many intake interviews, they're used to it, and they're not scared of their privacy towards the brothel owners. What they are scared about however, is this information ending up with the city government, which we don't trust because they've been closing down our workplaces for years. And I think most girls will be scared this information will be used to close down brothels, which is something we don't want, so most won't do it.

Another notion Maria Ruigrok stated, was that it would show we would do this job voluntarily. It's a strange thing. No other business owner in the world has to prove he or she is doing the job voluntarily, so why should I? Just because a lot of people are lying about how many girls are being forced into this job? Most recent statistic I got from a reliable source, was that the total amount of victims of human trafficking from the Red Light District last year was 7 girls. In a place where there are about 600-700 women working! That's fucking 1%! So why do I constantly have to prove I'm not forced, if only 1% is possibly a victim?! Just because a bunch of religious fanatics and radical feminists claim these things in their disgust towards prostitution?! And besides, it is already proven I'm doing this voluntarily, since the same intake interview is already being done by the brothel owners, so I don't see what this pass would change about it.

The only benefit for us, is that we don't have to do a new intake with each separate brothel owner. But if that's the benefit, 80% of the girls won't do it, since they don't have a problem with their brothel owners doing these intakes. Which, according to the logic of Maria Ruigrok, would subsequently imply we would be forced, because we don't get this prostitution pass 'proving' we're doing this voluntarily. I don't know, but this is already being proven twice a year, when my brothel owner has to do an intake interview with me. I don't see how another person asking these questions would change me being voluntarily working or not?

But there are also some good things about this idea. It's not all bad, it's got both good and bad things. The good thing about this system, is that it would relieve the brothel owner of their responsibility of checking who's forced and who's not. At this moment they are the ones doing it, and the risk is great, because if they don't do it correctly, they loose their permit. Relieving this responsibility from them, would take away a reason for the city government to try and close them down based on intake interviews, which is good for them. After all, most brothel owners don't want this responsibility, as it risks their entire business on one intake interview, and they don't feel they're capable of recognizing human trafficking. After all, they're people renting out business places, they're not trained psychologists or detectives.

This is a good thing, since the city government in recent years has constantly tried to find reasons to close down brothels. The intake was their ultimate weapon. If the brothel owner would give a room to a girl who was forced, because she passed the intake interview, the brothel owner would be held accountable because he did the intake, and could loose his permit. By taking this away from the brothel owners, you're basically taking away an excuse to close them down, which is something I'm happy about.

What I don't understand however, is how this would make me more independent? After all, I can already choose where I can work, this pass doesn't change a thing about that, except that I don't have to do another intake interview. But since we've already all took those intake interviews so many times already, this isn't very much of an issue with the girls. Also the privacy towards brothel owners is a little bit of a dumb argument. After all, they already know who we are, since they have to check our papers each time. And we trust out brothel owners more than the city government. So how does it make me more independent? Where's the benefit for me? Girls certainly won't feel more comfortable doing this intake interview with a city government they don't trust at all, while they can do it with their brothel owners which they're very positive about.

But Maria Ruigrok wants to do a pilot with this. I think it could be interesting to see how it works, and see if we can create any benefits for ourselves, rather than brothel owners. But what I don't understand is that she wants to test this out with the 'city brothel'. The city brothel is another plan of the city government to let sex workers run their own brothel. In short, the sex workers become their own brothel operators. But if the sex workers are their own brothel operators, why would they need this prostitution pass? After all, they are the brothel owners, so the one that does the intake interview at the brothel is, well... themselves! So why would they do an intake interview somewhere else, with a city government they don't trust?

If I can give any advice to Maria Ruigrok, it would be not to pilot this in the city brothel, but in a regular brothel. After all, the city brothel itself is already a test case, so they've got enough stuff to figure out already. Adding another test case on top of this may be too much. And above all, what might work in that brothel, might not work for the other brothels which are run by brothel owners, and not sex workers. And wasn't the whole idea of this prostitution pass to relief the brothel owner of it's responsibilities, and giving the sex worker more privacy from the brothel owners?

If you want to pilot such a thing, don't pick one brothel, but just do a pilot and let's see how many girls do it, from whatever brothel they come. If few girls show up, perhaps this will say something about trust the girls have in governments in this country. And perhaps it will also say something about the lack of benefits this prostitution pass offers. One or more or less intake interview? Who cares! And besides, how can I have more freedom of choice where to work, when the city government has reduced the choice with 33%, and still is planning to close down more? What choice is there, if most of my choices are being taken away by the city government itself?

Maria Ruigrok believes this pass would also perhaps give us more chance of getting a business bank account, or a mortgage or a disability insurance. First of all I think it's ridiculous we would need a pass to achieve something like this, simply because the financial industry discriminates us. Why do we have to do something extra because they are discriminating us? But more importantly, the reason they refuse us is because we are sex workers. A pass that proves you are a sex worker doesn't exactly change that, in fact, it confirms it, so I don't see how this would help. Also I don't really think banks would change their minds about sex work, simply because we have a 'prostitution pass'. They don't want us, because we are from the sex industry, an industry most businesses want to stay far away from being associated with, especially banks who rely a lot on trust. After all, let's not forget that it was the National Bank who fired one of their employees because she was working as a part time sex worker.

This pass will not work unless more benefits are created for the sex workers. The argument that it makes sex workers less depending on brothels owners is not a good one. After all, we still can't work without brothel owners, so we still rely on them. Also the argument that we won't have to give away any privacy information isn't a very strong argument. After all, they already have this information from all of our previous intakes. And why should we give this private information to people from a government we don't trust, while right now it's in the hands of brothel owners we do trust and already have this information. So what's the benefit for us? And besides, why would I need to prove I'm a self employer business owner, this is already proven by the fact that I'm already registered at the KvK, which by the way also do some sort of intake interviews these days, as I've found out yesterday.


Dutch public prosecutor lies about trafficking statistics
Today there was a radio show about prostitution in the Dutch National Radio. One of the key people in this conversation was Warner ten Kate, the public prosecutor human trafficking in Holland. Interesting thing about Ten Kate is the fact that he spoke during the TV show of Jojanneke, and claimed there was a research that showed that 70% of the prostitutes were forced in Holland.

I've already given it a lot of attention with previous posts. And this eventually resulted in a public debate about these statistics. Laurens Buijs from the University of Amsterdam wrote an article about this whole discussion in the newspaper NRC. In a response to that article Warner ten Kate himself wrote an article one week later in the NRC, shoving his own words of 70% in the shoes of Jojanneke, claiming it were her 'statements'. Apparently Warner ten Kate didn't feel too confident about his own statistics, and decided to blame the whole thing on Jojanneke.

An interesting thing, since it were clearly the words of Warner ten Kate himself, and not those of Jojanneke. Jojanneke simply used his claim a lot in the media after she did the interview with him, because it supported her own conclusions. But Warner ten Kate already claimed a similar statistic in another interview for a research by the University of Groningen. The research was being done to find out if criminalizing clients of a forced prostitutes would work. Warner claimed in an interview included in this report that 70% of the prostitutes in Holland would be forced. He claimed this was based on the Sneep case and the Koolvis case (page 102).

Today in the radio interview however he dropped the Koolvis as source, and now claimed only the Sneep case was the source (25:25). Not so weird to drop the Koolvis case as a source. After all, the Koolvis case was a case about prostitutes being forced in other countries, not in Holland. Holland nearly functioned as a gateway to Europe for the traffickers, but the women never worked here. So it would also be kind of amazing if this case could tell us anything about how many women are forced in Holland, if this case wasn't even about that.

But this time during the interview on the Radio Warner ten Kate was specifically asked about the 70% and where it comes from, and if he would still repeat it today. He claimed the 70% comes from a research done by the Erasmus University during the Sneep case. Funny thing is however. The Erasmus University never did any such research. None whatsoever! In fact, the Sneep case report itself (now dubbed Schone Schijn) doesn't even mention the Erasmus University in any of it's 141 pages. Even more interesting, the Sneep case also doesn't say 70% is forced, but claims it's 50 to 85% (page 76), and 8 pages later all of the sudden changes that to 50 to 90% without any reason.

How someone that lies this clearly can still be in function as a public prosecutor, is a miracle to me. A public prosecutor should be without any blame, someone you can trust, not someone of whom you can factually proof he's lying on several occasions. How come this man can still be in his current function, if it is factually proven he's a liar? How the hell is this possible? How come this man's function is not a point of discussion.

But more interestingly perhaps is Warner his own claim to 'stop talking about numbers'. That's really kind of funny. This whole debate started because he as a public prosecutor and the police keep mentioning numbers which are pure bullshit. But when people point this out, all of the sudden they say the discussion shouldn't be about the numbers? Then why the fuck did you mention them? We didn't mention any numbers, we just try to show people you are lying about the numbers, and we try to do this with actual research which constantly proves them wrong. But than all of the sudden they chicken out and we can't talk about numbers anymore? Why? Because those numbers aren't in your favor? Because those numbers would prove you are a liar?

But most of all what I don't understand, is why Warner is making up his own statistics, while there are perfectly usable (yet unreliable) statistics out there to make the same claims? Why didn't he just pick the 50 to 90% from the Sneep report? Why does he think he can get away with making up his own numbers? And why make up your own numbers, which are easier to prove wrong, than to debate about existing number and prove those existing numbers aren't correct. Is it because he's scared he'll be proven wrong by people with knowledge? Does he think that if he makes up a number that doesn't exist, nobody will find out because nobody can find the source?

We never wanted a debate about numbers. It was people like Warner ten Kate, Gert-Jan Segers, Renate van der Zee, Jojanneke van den Berge and sorts that started this whole debate years ago. First with the 50 to 90%, until apparently it lost it's reliability because it got proven to be unreliable as hell. And now this magical 70% which is made up by Warner ten Kate, and shows up in no research at all. Did you really think we wouldn't find out Warner, if you just made up your own numbers? Did you really think we would be this dumb?

I don't want to have a debate about numbers. We're talking about people, and those people aren't numbers, and shouldn't be treated as such. It's really a shame the anti-prostitution lobby constantly has to resort to incorrect statistics as arguments for their lies. Victims of trafficking aren't helped by these nonsense discussions about statistics. But by constantly bringing them up, you force us to debunk those numbers, starting a whole discussion about numbers while it should about the victims.

Why oh why did you have to lie Warner? I simply don't get it! You just should have used existing numbers, not make them up and think we wouldn't find out. But what I really don't understand, is how this person can still be a public prosecutor, if his lies are so clear as daylight, and his position regarding sex work is so obviously opposing it. Your lies are busted mr. Ten Kate. My question is how long are you going to be able to keep that job now that your lies are exposed?

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.