How prostitutes that aren't forced or exploited still count as victims by the Dutch law
It's something that I've written about before, but not something I've gone into depth about yet. Because when people think about victims of trafficking they think about a prostitute that is either forced or exploited. But the Dutch law doesn't require prostitutes to be forced or exploited at all, to be branded as victims of trafficking. In fact, a prostitute who willingly choose this profession, and has never been exploited, can still be counted as a victim of trafficking according to the Dutch law.

The exact part of the Dutch law I'm referring to is article 273F section 1 sub 3. The law is somewhat of a copy of a similar rule from the human trafficking law as defined by the United Nations. With one big difference however. Where the UN's version of this trafficking law requires prostitutes to be either forced or exploited to be seen as victims, this isn't the case in the Dutch version.

This is the version UN's version of the same rule under article 3 section A:
"Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

Yet the Dutch law states under article 273F 1.3
"The person who recruits, takes along or abducts another person with the intention to make that person available in another country to carry out sexual acts with another person in exchange for payment;"

Now, in the case of the version of trafficking from the United Nations, you cannot recruit or transport someone for prostitution if you coerce them, exploit them, deceit them etc. But the Dutch law states none of these things. Simply taking someone with you across the border is already enough to call it trafficking, even if there's no coercion whatsoever, no exploitation of any kind, and the prostitute in question is doing it completely out of her own free will, without being deceived or whatever.
Now, the United Nations would not call this trafficking, since all human trafficking is based on the concept of some form of coercion and exploitation. But the Dutch law does see this as human trafficking when there's no form of coercion or exploitation involved, as also the National Rapporteur explains in her reports.

Let's make an example to make it more clear. Let's say you're driving through Germany, and somewhere along the road you come across a girl that asks you if you can give her a ride to Amsterdam. Why? Because she wants to work in the Red Light District. She's alone, she's not being coerced or exploited, and you're a kind person, so you agree to give her a lift to Amsterdam.
Now, as soon as you cross the border with her, you have officially become a human trafficker and a criminal under the Dutch law, and the prostitute has become your victim. Why? Because you took her along with you with as a goal so she can become a prostitute in Amsterdam. 
It doesn't matter that you didn't coerce her, that you didn't try to exploit her, that you didn't even ask money for the ride. Giving her a free ride across the border is enough for the Dutch law to make you into a criminal.
Under the same law from the United Nations however, there's nothing wrong with it. According to their law, you are not a criminal when you do this. Why? Well, you didn't deceit, coerce, exploit or do any of the other things mentioned in the law which would make it a criminal act. 

But now let's take another example. Let's say I have a friend back in Romania. I know her very well, and she's looking for a quick way to make a lot of money. So I say to her she should come here, to work in prostitution. I'm not forcing her, I'm nearly telling her it's a good option. Now let's say she actually takes the step and does it. She moves to Amsterdam and starts working here in prostitution, because of my recommendations for it. In that case you could say that I've recruited her. Just like other people recruit people to work in a call center for example, or anywhere else.
Now, under the United Nations I'm save. She's not a victim of trafficking, because I didn't force or exploit her. And I'm not a suspect or perpetrator, since I didn't do anything illegal by the law of the United Nations. The Dutch law however doesn't require there to be any form of coercion or exploitation to be present in these kind of cases, meaning in this case it is human trafficking! Yes, it's weird isn't it? By international law I'm not a criminal in this case, but by Dutch law I am.

As you can see there's no need to be coerced or exploited in Holland to be counted as a human trafficking victim. While the United Nations make it clear some form of coercion or exploitation has to take place, the Dutch law doesn't require this for human trafficking when you take a prostitute with you, or when you recruit her. 
Now, you may be thinking this law is perhaps old, or doesn't get used much. Well, think again. In 2010 in in total 19 trafficking cases the public prosecutor used this law to try and convict people for helping prostitutes, which in 11 cases were even found guilty. The National Rapporteur calls that 'unjust', since in 8 of these cases people were not convicted for trafficking, because according to the judge there was no form of coercion or exploitation. In short, the National Rapporteur calls out to convict people for not coercing or exploiting prostitutes. She wants people to go to jail for human trafficking, even though they did not exploit or coerce the prostitutes. And perhaps this may also explain the often heard complaint that 'prostitutes don't see themselves as victims', and don't want to cooperate with prosecuting the other person.  And to give you an idea, in total there were 83 convictions of human trafficking in 2010, of which 11 were for this specific law that does not require any form of exploitation or coercion, that's about 13% of the cases, in which people are being convicted for something that doesn't require any form of coercion or exploitation.

On top of that also each year the Dutch Royal Marshals (KMar), which operate mostly at the borders and at the airports, report annually about 300-400 'possible victims' of these specific kind of cases a year. That's right! Each year 300-400 prostitutes get reported as possible victims of human trafficking which doesn't involve any kind of coercion or exploitation! Free prostitutes are registered as so called 'presumed victims', and also presented as such by CoMensha and the Dutch National Rapporteur Human Trafficking.
The most interesting part is the fact that these reports of these kind of cases has been increasing heavily since around 2010-2011. In fact, right around the same time as the number of presumed victims of human trafficking in prostitution seemed to explode all of the sudden, was the same period when un-coerced an un-exploited prostitutes where increasingly being reported as victims of trafficking. The below figure states the number of possible victims of trafficking in prostitution in Holland. The orange figure shows all the reported 'possible' victims in total, including prostitutes of whom they suspected weren't forced or exploited in any way. The blue figure however shows you what happens if you take out the cases that fall under this rule, which victimizes prostitutes that are neither forced or exploited in any way.

As you can see the huge increase of 'possible victims' is a lot lower if you don't count in all those cases involving prostitutes who are not coerced or exploited in any way, but that according to the Dutch law are still seen as victims of trafficking anyway. Quite a big portion as you can see. Especially from 2012, the record number of reported 'possible' victims ever in Holland is a lot lower if you don't count prostitutes that aren't being forced or exploited. 
In fact, if you look at these numbers, and take the record amount reported ever, including only 'possible' exploited and forced prostitutes, and not cases that don't require prostitutes to be forced or exploited, you come down to a very low percentage. On the estimated 20.000 sex workers in Holland, 789 was the highest reported possible victims of exploitation and coercion in prostitution ever. That's a little bit less than 4% of all the sex workers in Holland. And that was the record number!

Dutch version



9 Responses
  1. Korhomme Says:

    Within the UK, if you give a lift to a prostitute, you are a trafficker.


  2. Anonymous Says:

    I heard of an escort agency near the Belgium border that closed down after 'trafficking' a Dutch worker to a Belgium client. Can't remember the name of the agency though.


  3. Reader36 Says:

    This is off the topic of this blog post and your entire blog for that matter, so I would understand if you neglected to respond. But I am curious of what the minimum legal age is to hire a prostitute in Holland and if that is the same age to get into a brothel. Also, what advice to you have for a female wanting to pay for the services of a female prostitute? Do most brothels and individual prostitutes service them? If not, how do you go about finding the ones that do? Thanks for any response.


  4. nigel Says:

    This is what Felicia wrote in her post on Apr 15 2014

    "In fact, most of the girls have no idea what's going on out there, what people are saying about them, or what's going on in this country at all. That is because most girls simply don't speak the language, they don't get involved in the conversation, nobody asks us anything or even talks to us."

    and this is what Frelicia wrote in October 2nd 2015

    "Today the media reported that brothel owners have to be able to communicate with sex workers to ensure their safety. It was a decision made by the European Court of Justice, that the sex workers renting rooms from the brothel owners have to speak either Dutch or English.

    Personally I don't know any girls that don't speak at least English. So for me, and all the girls I know, this isn't much of a big deal."

    So which is it Felicia? I'm confused.


  5. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Nigel
    You do know we work in Holland, right? And that the language that is spoken over here is Dutch in the media? Which causes the girls not knowing what people talk about here in the media, and makes it impossible to get involved in the discussion?


  6. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Reader36
    There's no official legal age as far as I'm aware of, but almost everywhere they keep 18 as the minimum age.

    In regards to services for females, this depends very much on the sex worker in question. Some do it, some don't. Behind the windows there's only one way to find out, which is to ask the girls when you're at their door.


  7. Cliente X Says:

    OH! FINALLY!
    U MANAGED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT LAW PUNISHES, AND THAT TRAFFICKING DOES NOT MEAN COERTION!
    I jave been trying to explain the same here but no one listens me, they say that its impossible. But here u are, u were clever enough to read the own laws.
    CONGRATULATIONS
    Thats the model that is called "cover criminalization"
    In Spain we have the same. As u have told, any prostitute that brings another one is a TRAFFIKER. So many girls have been charged under a law that its supposed to protect them (article 177 bis of our penal code).
    Also, under article 188 obtaining any profit from prostitution froma third party its punished the same as forced prostitution. If u send ur mum money to help her, then she is ur pimp. It looks weird but thats the law we have!
    And bwt, Palermo's Protocol Uses a definition that doesnt need use of violence, coaction or fraud. Read carefully the definition as it includes "the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability". What is that? Well, if the prostitute needs money then she is a position of vulnerability. If she is from abroad, she also is bcause she doesnt have relatives in the country or dont speak the language. Or for some feminists, just for beign woman is in a position of vulnerability bcause we all know that in a patriarcal society women are opressed by men, heh. So, for the abolitionism (and current laws) ALL prostitutes are trafficked. Welcome to the wonderful and absurd world of the law!
    Only definition that says that any kind of violence its needed is the one from the GAATW (global alliance against trafficking of women). They propose the new definition but, at this moment, TRAFFIKING ITS NOT FORCED PROSTITUTION. Its just migration (even in the same country) to work in the irregular economy (like prostitution).

    Thank u Felicia, wouw, u are really progressing.


  8. 2delici.us2 Says:

    stigmatization... looks like rich and poor...

    Rich with gun: Cautious
    Poor with pistol: Burglar
    Rich with briefcase Executive
    Poor with briefcase: Trafficker


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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.