Stigmatizing
My boyfriend caught this conversation between Renate van der Zee (notorious feminist against prostitution) and a police officer with the same last name (sister?) Mirjam van der Zee, about prostitutes working in Den Haag in the Doubletstraat. This is the conversation:







Translation:

Visited the Doubletstraat. Met many friendly women.
The work is hard they say. They only make 25 euro per client.
(Renate van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam The cheapest street in Holland. 
And then you see what a nice, friendly women are there.
Really a disgrace. 
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee What a starvation wage 
and a disgrace indeed...
(Mirjam van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam Well said: a starvation wage
(Renate van der Zee)

Young Romanian just told me she studied architecture.
Now she's working in the Doubletstraat.
Sometimes she makes just enough to pay her room.
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee It's just exploitation.
And I thought this was illegal in Holland...
(Mirjam van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam I'm glad you see it the same way
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee It's my personal opinion;
The wage is disproportional to the work.
(Mirjam van der Zee)

It's interesting to see that apparently the police is also stigmatizing prostitutes as sad and poor women who work for cheap and are in need of saving. It tells a lot about how the police, also in general, thinks about, and sees prostitutes. This is also confirmed in their own rapport Schone Schijn, which I wrote about before here, which states that between 50 to 90% of the prostitutes are forced in their opinion. Yet in reality the police have trouble finding even 1% of these so called 'forced prostitutes'. Does that make their report so bad, or their work so shit?

Anyway, the conversation starts off with a false statement of Renate van der Zee. She claims prostitutes there only make 25 Euro's per client. By default this cannot be true, since the minimum price may be 25 Euro, this does not forbid the prostitute to ask a client for more money and to determine her own prices for the services she has to offer.
So perhaps one time someone pays 25 Euro because he just wants something basic, but another client may want something different, and would have to pay more for that, depending on how much the prostitutes charges. Many prostitutes, if not all prostitutes do this, and this all goes for the same length of time.
See it like a shop with different items for sale. The lowest price at a shop may be only 25 Euro's, but other items may go up to prices like 150 Euro's, depending on what the client wants to buy. So stating that the shop only earns 25 Euro per client is just plain false, this is the minimum price the shop will earn if a client buys something from there, but that doesn't mean all customers will only buy things of 25 Euro's.
What irritates me about this part, is the adding of the word 'only' 25 Euro's. Like making 25 Euro's in 15 minutes is so little. But let's be honest, how many people make 25 Euro's per 15 minutes at their job? That would come down to an hourly rate of 100 Euro's. Anyone?

Then Renate tweets something about the fact that the women who are working there are nice, but jumps into saying all of the sudden that it's a disgrace. So what exactly is this disgrace? Is it a disgrace that there are only nice women standing there, meaning they should allow unfriendly women there too (perhaps herself)? Is the disgrace that nice women are standing there, meaning only unfriendly women should be allowed to be standing there? Is the disgrace that there are women standing there in the first place?
It's an old technique Renate uses to manipulate people, without making false claims, while seemingly being nice about these women at the same time. This way Renate seems to be standing up for these women, because she calls these women friendly and nice etc. But at the same time she's completely against prostitution, so she doesn't want these women to have this job, or to be standing there at all. So she seems to be defending prostitutes, while at the same wanting to get rid of them.

Then the police officer comes with a comment that really bugs me. She replies to Renate that the 25 Euro's they're making is a 'starvation wage'. So she seems to be thinking these women only make 25 Euro's with each client, which is false, but that's exactly the intention Renate van der Zee had when she wrote that Tweet.
But let's be honest here. Because apparently 25 Euro's for 15 minutes isn't enough for Mirjam to do this job, while last time I checked the wage for police officers (source) wasn't even nearly as close to this, it's only 2724 Euro's max. a month! This would come down to an hour rate of 15,71 Euro's, and per 15 minutes that would come down to 3,93 Euro's!
Jeez! Talking about a starvation wage! 3,93 Euro's for 15 minutes max., while those girls make 25 Euro's in 15 minutes at the bare minimum! So while you're laying your life on the line in a dangerous job filled with crime, violence and weapons for less then 4 Euro's per 15 minutes, these girls make 25 Euro's to do something most people only dream about during their job, which is sex!
And let's not forget that not every client that comes in wants or gets sex. Like I've written in this post before here, there are many customers who just want to talk. The fact that this police officer thinks it's a starvation wage for this job, says more about her interpretation of this job, and her prejudice about it, then it says anything about this job itself or it's wages.

Then Renate starts to write about a young (what's young when you're 53?) Romanian woman who studied architecture, and who's working there. This is obviously a way to dramatize the whole thing. First adding the fact that she's young, to stigmatize her as a young naive girl, a possible daughter to someone else. Secondly adding the fact that she had studied architecture as a way to show how tragic it must be to be working here, while she could be an architect, making it seem like this job was something this woman hadn't chosen for herself. Of course adding in the fact that sometimes she doesn't make the rent to her room, is to victimize her more.
But now let's be honest. Being young or old are definitions that open to interpretation. Many people think when they see me behind the windows that I'm very young as well. Sometimes people ask me if I'm old enough to do this job, even though I'm 28. I don't know if Renate van der Zee asked this Romanian girl for her age, but in the eyes of Dutch people, all Romanian girls look very young. So we don't know really what her age is, since Renate didn't mention is, so we can't say anything about the age but that's it left open for interpretation. As adding in the word young in stead of the actual age would only increase the sense of being a victim, this statement is purely made to victimize this girl.
Secondly, she studied architecture. If she has so much trouble paying her room, like how Renate makes it sound, why doesn't she just go and become an architect? Romania is a poor country with low employment, but an architect can make good money, and I find it hard to believe she wouldn't be able to find a job as an architect, since people are building a lot of new buildings in Romania constantly in the last few years.
And the fact she sometimes can just pay the rent of room, doesn't mean this is always the case. In fact, it states the sometimes she just makes the room, which means she always at least(!) makes the room, and never has days that she doesn't make the rent. And if she really would be barely making just her room, then how can she pay the rent to her apartment? If she really wouldn't be able to pay for this, she would've moved back to Romania already long time ago.
I also sometimes don't make the rent to my room, yet that doesn't mean I'm very poor or something. If I would have to do a normal job I wouldn't even get a salary close to what I'm making now, even if I sometimes don't make my room.
If the situation would be really as bad as Renate makes it sound like, this girl would've moved back already to Romania to find a job as an architect. But honestly, I think this girl works here, because she can simply make more money here doing this job, then being an architect back in Romania.

Then the police officer writes that she sees this as exploitation. Like doing this job is exploitation on itself. As I've talked about already here above, her own position at the police force, and her own wage is way lower then these girls. So if these girls are exploited in her opinion, what does that make her? Super-exploited by the police force, to do a dangerous job for a wage that doesn't compare to the danger she get's into every day?
It's a clear example of her ignorance about this work, the wages and her own prejudices about it. It shows exactly how the public opinion, through the media, has been manipulated, into seeing all prostitutes as victims. She stigmatizes prostitutes with her tweets, without that she's even aware of it, because she's been brainwashed by people like Renate van der Zee into seeing prostitutes as sad women with no other option.
Of course in the next Tweet from Renate van der Zee, she completely agrees with this, but then again, would we expect anything different from someone who makes a living out of stigmatizing prostitutes as victims?

The last Tweet from the police officer is certainly interesting, since she comments that the wage is disproportional to the work. This says more about her prejudices about this work, and how little she actually knows about it, then it really says anything about the work and the wages. If the wages would really be disproportional, many of the girls including myself, wouldn't be doing this work. Yet, 90% of the women doing this work (at least!) do this job because of the huge amounts of money we can make with it.
The fact that this woman cannot understand that, shows her ignorance about our profession, but more importantly she doesn't seem to understand that her own wage is way more disproportional to her own job, than ours is to our job. Perhaps someone should notify this woman, she's doing a highly dangerous job, working at the police, while being paid very little for laying her life on the line, while there are other options that are far less dangerous and pay much more money, like prostitution. So perhaps a career change would be an option for her?

One funny note, after my boyfriend commented on her Tweets and the stigmatizing character on them, she commented back they where not stigmatizing at all. Yet she did delete her tweet about it, which makes one wonder why she deleted it, if it wasn't stigmatizing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch version


Prostitution, drugs and guns
Apparently there's this whole idea that people have, that the world of prostitution is filled with crime, drugs and guns. It's an idea perhaps that people get from watching movies, or false stories that are out there, but this is very far from reality.
I guess the reason many people think about drugs and guns when they think about prostitution, is because these are things that all have a mysterious attraction to people, people are always interested and intrigued by danger and things they don't understand. For some kind of reason guns, drugs and prostitutes are mysteriously interesting, since there's not a lot known about the world's behind them. I personally don't know much about drugs or guns, I don't use them nor am I interested in them, yet for some kind of weird reason a lot of other people are.

First of all not a lot of people have guns in Holland to begin with. The policies around guns are much tougher than for instance in the U.S., so not many people in Holland even own a gun to begin with. Secondly, most of the people that visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam, are tourists, and they simply don't carry any guns with them, since they wouldn't get passed customs with it.
So fact is that not many people have guns to begin with, and those who do, need a permit for it with some very strict rules about it. It's one of the reasons Holland has such a low crime rate compared to the U.S. (learn from that America!), if you don't have a gun, you can't kill or threaten people with it.
Of course there might be some underground criminals who own guns, but in my 4 years of time working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, getting all kinds of customers, I've never met someone with a gun. It simply doesn't happen. So it's not like people run here on the streets with guns or something.

This brings us to the point of drug dealers on the streets. Criminals who sell drugs. I've had some customers who deal drugs in the streets, their money is as good as any to me, I don't care as long as they pay me. And to be honest, since these guys sell drugs, and make a lot of money, they like to spend money on prostitutes.
But besides the fact that some drug dealers are clients of prostitutes (by far not all, just a few), this doesn't mean drug dealers and prostitution are connected in any way more than it is connected to the accountancy industry, just because some of our clients are accountants.
In fact, most prostitutes don't like drug dealers, since their shady appearance scare away our customers, who become afraid of them. It's not good for business to have them around. So also the prostitutes would rather seen them leave, than hanging around in our working area. If it where up to me, all these guys would need to be arrested and kept in jail for a very long time.

My question is why do I see the same guys on the streets already for years, selling drugs, while the police stands around and does nothing about it? Are they too occupied with 'freeing' prostitutes from their 'pimp'?
How come I see every day the same guys hanging around in the neighborhood, and I rarely see the police doing anything about it? Perhaps the police is allowing this to happen to get the big boss behind these street dealers, but if that would be the case, it must be an extremely slow moving case, because the same guys have been around for the past 4 years that I've been working there already.
If Amsterdam was really so interested in cleaning up the crime in the Red Light District, I don't understand why the police still haven't arrested these guys. Some do get arrested and go to jail for a couple of days, before they get back on the street again. It's one of the reasons why these guys keep selling drugs on the street, because even if they get caught, they only go to jail for a very short period of time, it's almost laughable. Holland's justice system is laughable anyway, criminals go to jail for such a short period of time, that it does pay to be a criminal here. Pickpockets go to jail for a couple of weeks, real pimps who exploit women and physically assault them go to jail for only two or three years, drug dealers go to jail for a matter of weeks. No wonder these criminals keep hanging around in this country, the jail time is so short, and the conditions in jail are so good, it's almost like a holiday. These are no punishments, it's more like a break from work for most of these criminals.
If Amsterdam really wishes to fight crime in the Red Light District, then focus on those street dealers, arrest them and make sure they go to jail for a long time, that will solve 90% of the dark image and crime that's in the Red Light District.

And then of course there's the idea a lot of people have that most prostitutes use drugs. They say the drugs come from their pimp, who uses it as a way to keep control over the prostitutes, and in this way force her to work for him. Keep her drugged, and she'll work for you and make you money.
The funny thing is, I don't even use drugs. I've never smoked a joint, even though I live in Holland and it's completely legal. I don't even drink alcohol. And most of the girls I know also don't use any hard drugs. Some smoke a joint, but than again, so do a lot of people in Holland. In fact, I think regular people in Holland smoke more joints than prostitutes do. Some of my friends smoke a joint sometimes. They're not junkies or addicts. They just like to relax that way, it's like drinking an alcoholic beverage. There's no pimp forcing them or giving them these drugs, they buy it themselves.
But in all honesty, not many girls smoke a joint at work. The girls I know who use drugs, use them when they go out to party. They like to stay sharp at work, and a joint doesn't help with that. And using harddrugs is especially not a good idea in prostitution, you go fucking paranoia if you use harddrugs, from all the people starring at you at work. And on top of that, our offices (exploitant) doesn't allow the use of drugs in our rooms. Of course that doesn't stop some girls from doing it, but those girls that sometimes do it, aren't exactly drug addicts.

The whole idea of a pimp using drugs to keep control over his prostitute is overrated. I've never seen it happening. I'm not saying it doesn't happen at all, but if it does happen, it happens on a very small scale. But most prostitutes don't even use hard drugs. They're not come coke snorting bitches that are to stoned to see what's happening to them. That's just bullshit.
Perhaps there are a few girls who do use hard drugs on a regular base, and they're addicted. But those girls aren't forced, they work this job because they love drugs, and this job pays for it. But the general idea that most prostitutes are using drugs, it just nonsense. The use of drugs and guns in our industry is highly overrated. In fact, the use of drugs is probably higher among the general Dutch population, than it is among prostitutes in the Amsterdam Red Light district.

Guns are rarely to be found there, and if they are there it should be the police to take care of that. I've never come across one any way, so I think this is a stupid discussion. The prostitution industry in Amsterdam is not responsible for the failures of the police who's responsibility it is. And the same thing goes for drugs. The prostitution industry in Amsterdam is not responsible for people selling or using drugs in the area, if people are dealing or using it, it should be the police who should take the responsibility for it. The use of drugs among prostitutes is highly overrated, and it certainly isn't the case that most girls are drugged behind the window by some pimp exploiting them. We prostitutes have a strong social control among each other, and also the offices that rent us our rooms have rules against the use of drugs. If there are still people using drugs, they are violating the rules of the offices, which will kick those girls out if they find out. And on top of that it's also the responsibility of the Amsterdam police and the city government to fight drug dealers on the streets.

Prostitutes just want a safe place to work. Drugs and guns don't fit into that. Besides the fact that there are virtually no guns in the Red Light District, and the use of drugs is restricted to legal softdrug use by mainly tourists and Dutch locals, prostitutes hardly ever use any drugs at all. The idea that prostitution, drugs and guns are related are complete nonsense. It's more something you'll see in movies and video clips with rappers, but reality is not as exciting as movies often show, certainly not in the Red Light District anyway. So this is one of those myths that are complete nonsense.
We are strong advocates of a safe Red Light District, but it's the local police, and indirectly the city government of Amsterdam who are responsible for this. They however seem to be more occupied with closing down windows, taking away safe workplaces for prostitutes, than ensuring the safety of the visitors, tourists, clients and prostitutes in the Red Light District in Amsterdam by arresting street dealers and other small time criminals.

Dutch version
Change in Amsterdam
For more then 60 years the PVDA (Labor Party) has ruled in Amsterdam, is has been under their reign that the city government choose to criminalize business owners in the Red Light District and brand them as criminals, and repeatedly yelled in the media that human trafficking was a major problem in the Amsterdam Red Light District. It was under their reign that Lodewijk Asscher (PVDA) decided to close down a large amount of windows to fight human trafficking and forced prostitution (as can be read here).

Now, for the first time in more then 60 years the PVDA is not in control anymore, thanks to the elections which have been a major disaster for the PVDA. Last week three other political parties presented their coalition and their plans for the city, as they will form the new city council at City Hall. The new people who are in control now are D66 (Democrats), VVD (Liberals) and SP (Socialistic Party). An interesting combination of parties who forged a different view on Amsterdam with a new plan.
Of course my interest was what are they going to do with 'project 1012', the project that is focusing on closing down more prostitution windows and coffee shops, reducing the Red Light District into just one street with a couple of alleys.

But as negotiations went along, all we heard about where plans about housing, parking and education, everything but Amsterdam's most famous area itself, the Red Light District. And even when they presented last week their plans, at first it wasn't really clear what the plans for the Red Light District where. Where they going to continue to close more windows down, taking away more safe workplaces for prostitutes, and forcing them into the abyss? Or where they finally going to stop the project that cost hundreds of women their workplace, income and job, under the pretense of 'protecting them'?
It was almost as if the media and the political parties where avoiding talking about the Red Light District, making it seem like other things where more important then the lives of those who are at risk, the prostitutes themselves, and the most famous part of Amsterdam itself, the Red Light District. Perhaps they're scared to talk about it, scared for criticism on their plans even before they begin with their work. Perhaps they don't care at all, and it's one of those things they flipped a coin over.

It wasn't until their entire plan got online, that I could read about their plans for the Red Light District. The plan is basically very simple. They're going to become more 'coffeeshop friendly', which is a good thing for the Red Light District. And they're also going to invest less money in project 1012 to buy prostitution windows. Well, it's a step in the right direction I guess. But why are they 'just' going to invest less money in it? Why not just quit a project that's not only doing the opposite of what it promises, but even makes the situation worse, and above all, is doomed to fail? Spending less money is good, but why spend any money at all on a project that's doomed to fail? Was it really so hard to just quit the project?
After all, they did decide to quit banning coffeeshops, and even embrace them with a 'coffeeshop friendly' approach. So why didn't they decide to make a 'prostitution friendly' approach? Why are they so adamant on closing down windows, even though they're going to spend less money on it?

I don't know what to expect of this new coalition and their plans. It's better then it was, but it looks to me like they still want to continue the plans, just on a lower budget. Does this mean they're also convinced that closing down windows will save women from forced prostitution? And if so, then why would they spend less money on it? Does this mean they care less about those girls who are forced?
The only conclusion that I can draw from the new plans are that they don't care about prostitutes. Not only where they mum on the whole project for the entire length of their negotiations, even though plenty of other plans and ideas they had did get mentioned in the media. But on top of that, they never presented a new plan for the Red Light District in a big way like how they presented other plans. Apparently they don't care so much about the Red Light District.

But they do care about coffeeshops, since they're going for a radical change in their approach towards them. Because where the current city government is focused on closing down coffeeshops, the new one embraces them. Yet when it comes to prostitution, they're still continuing the previous plans, but because they don't care so much, they just don't want to spend so much money on it.
Apparently the new coalition doesn't care about us. They don't care if we're forced or not, they don't care if we're safe or not, we're not even worth mentioning. Well, at least there's one good thing about not being mentioned, we don't get mentioned in a bad way again, as we've been mentioned in the past ten years predominantly through talks about crime, forced prostitution, human trafficking and all that shit. Like crime's the only thing happening in the prostitution industry in the Red Light District. I guess right now no exposure is the best exposure we can get. We're just not that important to them, which is strange if you think about the fact that the new tagline of the coalition is 'Amsterdam is from everyone', I guess everyone except the prostitutes.

Dutch version


New campaign against human trafficking
In my last blogpost I wrote about the results of the old campaign from Meld Misdaad Anoniem (Anonymous Crime Report) and the minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten. But now let's talk about the new campaign they presented. The old campaign focused very much on the customers, in which they used 'sign of human trafficking' to help customers and other people identify victims. I already wrote about those so called 'signs of human trafficking' before in this post here, but it seems the new campaign hasn't changed much about those signs, in fact they seam to be the same ones with a couple of new ones added. So I won't go much into them, since I think I've already explained enough why those so called signs are complete nonsense. But it does explain why 93% of the reports of human trafficking that come in, turn out to be false alarm.

What I would like to focus on are the new target groups of the new campaign. Last time the campaign targeted clients, this time they choose to add two new groups to their target groups, and they include sex workers and social workers or NGO's. Of course one might ask themselves why they didn't target these groups before, especially sex workers themselves, since it's our business and after all, we are the ones who have the best and most insight into our own industry. Wouldn't it have been smarter to aim the first campaign in the first place to sex workers themselves, before aiming it at other people who have no idea what they're talking about?

But okay, let's be fair, at least they understand now that the best source of information about human trafficking has to come from the girls themselves, rather then outsiders that know little to nothing about the situations of prostitutes. I'm happy to see that they've finally realized they need to start listening to prostitutes, in stead of listening to people who have been fed propaganda and report mostly false cases of human trafficking, like the result was with the last campaign.

To reach the prostitutes, Meld Misdaad Anoniem has set up a campaign using two video's to create awareness among prostitutes themselves. It's not like we needed any more awareness, as it's impossible as a prostitute to not be aware of the fact that everybody is looking for forced girls in our business. On a daily base we get confronted with this through clients that worry about this, police that ask us questions and interrogate us, and every day news that report on human trafficking as if it's something huge.
So it's not like we weren't aware of the fact that there's human trafficking happening in our industry. And I also doubt the fact that women would be scared or any other way reluctant to report it if they ever saw something like this happening. So I think it's a bit weird they're doing a campaign about something so many people are already aware about.

But the weirdest thing about the new campaign are the videos itself. There are two new videos that are supposed to make prostitutes aware of human trafficking happening in our industry, and help us to report it. I'll first show you the videos before going into it any further:




The first time I saw these two videos I thought they where joking. The videos almost look like a spoof of a human trafficking campaign and are hard to take serious, and are making caricatures out of the prostitutes in the Red Light District. Secondly, the video appears to have been made by someone who hasn't been in the Red Light District in Amsterdam since the 60's, as they prominently feature typical Dutch Amsterdam prostitutes with their typical accent, have been made up to look like we're still in the 60's including over the top make-up and wigs, and is featuring (as usual) the introduction of a young innocent looking Eastern European girl as a possible victim. The video shows them standing outside to talk with each other about the young Hungarian girl, something you will never see in the Red Light District, since girls aren't allowed to go outside from their workroom in their working clothes.

But the funniest thing about these videos, are the fact that they're not even actually about forced prostitution or human trafficking. We hear the women talking about the young age of the girl, and they're asking themselves if the girl is old enough to work there. A weird thing if you ask me, because first of all you can't even get a window from one of the owners unless you're at least 21 years old. Secondly, they make it sound like being younger then 21 is a terrible thing in this industry, while the law still states to this date that you can do this job legally from when you're 18, and not 21. Only Amsterdam works with the minimum age of 21.
So it's not like being 21 is a bad thing or something, or something to be very suspicious about, yet they make it look in the video like it's extremely suspicious for a girl under 21 to work here.

Secondly they only talk about this guy called Radek, it's made to sound in the video like he's the guy forcing the girl. But if you pay more attention to the video, nowhere it becomes clear that's she actually forced, or that even he's her pimp. For all we know, he could be her boyfriend. The fact that he had a different girl before is irrelevant, also guys can get a relationship from one prostitute to another prostitute in normal life.
On top of that they only seem to be talking about gossips, nothing else. There's never any real facts, just gossips they heard from clients, which every prostitute knows, aren't generally the most trustworthy stories.

But probably the worst thing about this video, is the fact that again it's stigmatizing Eastern European prostitutes as victims. Again a Eastern European girl is playing the victim here, while actual research shows that 48% of the human trafficking that happens in prostitution comes from Dutch girls.
Again we hear some stigmatization about girls taking their clients home to work there for cheap money, another nice stigmatization making it more difficult for prostitutes to get a place to live. Just so you people know, I got turned down an apartment last year, because the guy who rented the apartment was scared I would take clients home with me. This is absolute bullshit.

It seems to me the video is more to stimulate prostitutes, especially Dutch prostitutes, to gossip more with each other about Eastern European prostitutes, about which ones are forced. In my opinion all the video shows, is partially true, is the fact that some Dutch prostitutes feel threatened by younger and better looking Eastern European prostitutes. The video shows more how some Dutch prostitutes feel threatened by good looking Eastern European girls, and how some of them are willing to go very far, even spreading lies and gossips, in order to get rid of the competition.
The video seems to stimulate gossiping, and getting rid of the competition using false stories more, then it actually seems to stimulate prostitutes to report actual trafficking happening. In my opinion this video makes things worse, in stead of better for prostitutes.

Another fun thing about this video, is the fact that these women seem adamant on keeping out the cops. They want to report it to someone that this girl is possibly forced (even though nothing points in that direction but gossips), but not to the police. The answer to that in this video is Meld Misdaad Anoniem, or in short M. as they call it in the video. Apparently it's just some random number, that will not notify the police, but it's just good to call if you have suspicions and you need to talk about it with some anonymous person.
Are they serious?! Calling this number is totally involving the police! Yes, anonymous, but it's not like M. is some kind of random number like they're almost making it sound. And yes, it will involve the police.
But I really don't understand why this would be such a problem. If they think the girl is being forced, they can still go to the police station which is only two streets away, and report it there anonymously if they have to. But they would never have to worry about Radek, since the police would arrest him. So I don't get it why these girls should be scared of him, if they go to the police, the police will arrest him anyway, so there's nothing to be scared about, even if they don't do it anonymous.

I know many people think prostitutes are scared to go to the police to report things because of pimps, but this is not true. We're not scared of pimps, because if we report them, the police will arrest him, and our problem would be solved. In short, there's nothing to be scared about.
Plus, you can do it anonymously without having to call Meld Misdaad Anoniem, and nobody would ever have to find out you where the one reporting it. And this is also proven in court cases, as in almost none of the cases do prostitutes use this option to anonymously report human trafficking. Which proves the girls aren't scared to go to the police.

Bur the reason this campaign will never work is for another reason, besides it's ridiculous looking video filled with false prejudices about prostitution and the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Most girls who work in the Red Light District, and I think in prostitution in Holland in general, don't speak Dutch. Most of the girls working in the Red Light District are from Eastern Europe, like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary etc.
You can make a video in Dutch, but without subtitles, nobody's going to understand anything about it. And on top of that, where do they think the girls are going to see this video? The girls don't watch Dutch TV, they have their own satellite and watch TV from home, or English channels. Also they don't look on the internet for things about their own job, it's one of the reasons I don't write posts on my blog for my colleagues, because they'll never look for it anyway. So they also will never find this video online.

This campaign shows just how little the government and the police know about prostitution and specifically the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Their ideas about prostitution and the Red Light District are set back more then 20 years ago, filled with prejudices about Eastern European women, having no idea about the realities of living and working as a prostitute.  The campaign is laughable, it's so bad that even if the prostitutes will see this campaign I think they'll be pissing their pants laughing.
If they want to reach us, they'll have to drop their prejudices about us, invest in what interests us (and maybe find out we're not so different from themselves), and stop talking to us like we're dumb little children. Seriously, if this was a campaign for 5 or 6 year old kids about the dangers of violence in video games, they'd probably also be pissing their pants laughing about the bad quality and huge prejudices in this video.
Are you sure this is not satire from a comedy show? I still can't believe this is real!

Dutch version
Results of the human trafficking campaign
Last week the minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten presented together with the government's own anonymous crime report organisation Meld Misdaad Anoniem it's new campaign against human trafficking. And before they presented the new campaign, they wanted to give an overview of the results of the last campaign (news article here).
The last campaign which ran from 2012 until this year got 392 anonymous tips on possible human trafficking, so called reports of human trafficking. These could involve forced prostitution, extortion but also illegal prostitution. The reports came from a campaign which was based on signs of human trafficking, like I wrote about in this blog here. According to minister Opstelten this was a great success, since they got 93% more reports then the years before.

But now let's look at some details about those results. Because to begin with, 392 reports out of 20.000 estimated legal working prostitutes in Holland isn't very much. In fact, it's only about 2% of the legal prostitutes in total, while the police themselves reported in their own 'report' Schone Schijn (read my post here for more about that) that it was somewhere between 50 and 90%.
So what is the success minister Opstelten is talking about? Is it the success of not being able to find those victims they claimed that are victims? Or is the success the fact that they apparently can hardly find any real cases of human trafficking, and that thereby apparently the problems of human trafficking for 90% has been solved?

But it get's even funnier if you read through the rest of the presentation of their results. Because of those 392 reports that they got, the police only decided to investigate 250 of them, which is about 64%. So apparently about 36% of the reports where already considered to be false alarm to begin with. But wait, it get's better!
Because from the 250 investigations, a whopping 28 arrests where made, which comes down to about 7% of the total amount of reports that they got.  This means that only 7% of the reports leads to an actual arrest, and apparently 93% of the cases are false alarm.

Now do you remember that Opstelten mentioned that it was such a huge success that they got 93% more reports of human trafficking then the years before they had this campaign? Then isn't it funny to think about the fact that it's also exactly 93% of the reports that apparently turned out to be false alarm, since they only arrested in 7% of the cases people? In short, people report it much more then before, but the actual number of people arrested has not changed at all. So people are apparently more concerned, because they get 93% more reports, while in fact nothing has changed because the same 93% also turns out to be false alarm. So we're just making people a lot more worried, while facts are that nothing has changed even though there was a huge campaign.

The only success the last campaign seemed to have had, was the fact that apparently a lot of more people started reporting human trafficking, because they worry about it, a proof of the fact that prostitutes are being stigmatized as victims, because the same amount of reports also turn out to be false alarm. So we're just making a lot more people worried over something that isn't really as big as a lot of people claim.
On top of that, the police seemed to have gotten it 93% busier then before, of which exactly 93% also turns out to be nothing, since they've still arrested only 7% of the total cases. Fact is, that the police now gets a lot more work ahead of them, while the results remain the same. In short, more work for the police, without any new results. Great job!

Another interesting fact about the anonymous reports that where made, was the fact that 240 reports from the 392 (61% of the reports) where about prostitution in places where it wasn't allowed, so called illegal prostitution. Which means that the majority of the reports about human trafficking didn't even come from the legal prostitution, which is logical since it's hard to get control over something that happens illegal and out of sight of the police and other authorities. It also shows that closing down the windows in Amsterdam, but also in Utrecht and other cities have not improved anything.

But perhaps the most interesting details about the last campaign where the fact that only 7 cases where solved, of which only 4 revolved around human trafficking. Are you serious, 4 cases of human trafficking?! This means that from the 7 cases you had, only 4 (57%) turned out to be human trafficking, and the rest was not human trafficking related?! So even apparently those 28 arrests weren't even all related to human trafficking, but if you use the statistics of 57%, only about 16 arrests where related to human trafficking, and the rest wasn't? This would bring the number of human trafficking, based on the 20.000 legal prostitutes working in Holland to even such a low number that it's not even worth mentioning, a shocking 0,08% of the total!

But even saying that 0.08% of the prostitutes in Holland are human trafficked isn't fair, since these numbers did not just come from legal prostitution, but also from illegal prostitution, 61% to be exact. Nobody knows exactly how many illegal prostitutes are working here in Holland, but it would be safe to assume that there are quite a few prostitutes working in this country illegal, since they are 61% of the reported cases. The biggest benefits of working illegal in prostitution in Holland, are the facts that you can for a large part hide from police and other authorities from the human trafficking hunt (not to be harassed), plus the fact that you don't have to pay the 21% taxes that legal prostitutes do have to pay.

Fact is, that again results show that they could hardly find any real cases of girls being forced or exploited in prostitution. The estimations the police made themselves of 50 to 90% in their reports show to be very far away from the truth, which doesn't even come close to 1%. The new campaign has only stigmatized prostitutes into victims, with people seeing everywhere signs of human trafficking on many prostitutes, while facts show that 93% where false alarm. The police has been busy with a lot of false alarms, keeping them from fighting real crimes, and focusing on the hype that this campaign has created. Keeping cops from doing their work with false alarms, stigmatizing prostitutes as victims, and making a lot of people worried over very little, I can hardly call a success. I wonder if the new campaign is going to change anything about that.

Dutch version


"Every day 400 prostitutes are being raped in Amsterdam"
"Every day 400 prostitutes are being raped in Amsterdam". These are the words of the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, words he has used already multiple times when it comes to a debate about prostitution in Amsterdam and defending his 'project 1012' to 'clean up' the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Words by the way, that where almost exactly copied by Marjolein Moorman, also from the same political party , the PVDA (Labor Party), during a debate about prostitution in the Amsterdam Red Light District, for the local news channel AT5 (view the debate here). But also by district attorney in Amsterdam, Jolanda de Boer. The line is obviously meant to shock people into supporting the plans of the PVDA to reduce the Red Light District, plans they have already partially been executed and they have been working on already since 2007 and the wings of former alderman Lodewijk Asscher at the time.


It comes from a scripted answer to defend the plans of the PVDA to close down more windows, a plan that in recent years has gotten more and more criticism for it's failures, and the answer goes something like this:
"There are 7000 prostitutes working in Amsterdam. Nobody knows exactly how many women are being forced into prostitution, because researches show very different numbers about how many prostitutes are being forced, from 8% to 90% and everything in between. So we don't know how many women are being forced into prostitution and are being raped on a daily base. But even if we take the lowest number of 8%, that still means 400 women are being raped on a daily base here in Amsterdam, and we shouldn't want that. So if you want to fight forced prostitution, you will support our plans, if not then you're supporting human trafficking."

The numbers are obviously meant to shock people into supporting the plans of the PVDA without question. Anyone who opposes the plans immediately disqualifies themselves by the added line 'if not, than you're supporting human trafficking'. And even if you try to reason with the people from the PVDA, they will always come back to 'their fact' that 400 women are being raped, and that 'if you're not with them, then you're supporting human trafficking'. And this is exactly why it's so hard to prove to people that the PVDA aren't really interested in the safety of women in prostitution, and that they're not 'saving' women from 'being raped', but that they're only interested in getting rid of the image Amsterdam has about prostitution and drugs (read more about that here).

But the PVDA are just manipulating people into supporting their plans using a story filled with holes. The first hole in this story comes from the fact that they're defending their policy on the Red Light District, 'project 1012', and using statistics from the Red Light District, while on the other hand referring to the total number of prostitutes that work in the entire prostitution industry in Amsterdam, and not just to those of the Red Light District. It's like doing a research on Starbucks and using their statistics to claim things about Starbucks, while relying on numbers from the entire catering industry.
So using the number of all the 7000 prostitutes working in Amsterdam, while we're talking just about the Red Light District where only around 900 prostitutes are working, is obviously a way to crank up the number of women 'being raped' into a shocking number, to get support for their plans.

But the second hole in their story is much bigger. It revolves around the use of the word 'rape', which is being used to imply horrific things happening in the prostitution industry. The word rape is used to imply that forced women are doing this job against their will, and that in a way it's rape. Of course this would never hold up in court since we're talking about forced labor rather then actual rape, but that doesn't stop the people from PVDA of using this word. But fact is, that the 8% they use in their story, are not all women who are being 'raped' as they claim. The 8% comes from a research about human trafficking, which is much more then just forced prostitution and the 'rape' they claim. Human trafficking also encompasses extortion and/or assisting the migration of a sex worker, stuff that has little to nothing to do with being forced, and certainly has nothing to do with 'being raped'.
In fact, if you look at the court cases about human trafficking, you'll often find that women weren't forced into prostitution, but they choose it themselves, and afterwards got into trouble with someone assisting them. Of course there are also cases of real forced prostitution, but certainly not every case of human trafficking is a case of forced prostitution. So claiming that 8% of the prostitutes are being raped, is hugely exaggerating things. This would only be the case if human trafficking only encompasses forced prostitution, which is definitely not the case.
So also the claim that 400 women would be 'raped' every day in Amsterdam, is simply false. The 400 women they are talking about, are the estimated number of victims of human trafficking, of which only a portion is being forced into prostitution or 'rape' like they call it.

Nobody knows exactly in how many cases of human trafficking there's also rape involved. It's also difficult to say, since even if rape would occur, that doesn't automatically come from the fact that they're victims of human trafficking. Also a prostitute can be raped outside of work and not by her 'pimp', just like every other woman can. And certainly those women who where victims of extortion or who where merely getting assistance into migration for sexwork, are not being raped.
But let's say that about 50% of the cases of human trafficking would involve rape, which is very high, seeing the number of court cases that I've come across with and have much less then half of them involved a woman being forced into performing sexual acts. But let's just say it's 50% to 'humor' Van der Laan and the rest of the PVDA. That would mean that from the 900 prostitutes working in the Red Light District, of which 8% are victims of human trafficking (72 prostitutes), we would be talking about 36 women (50% of the 72) that would actually be 'raped' as they call it.
That's a very different story from the 400 women that mayor Van der Laan claimed, and although 36 women are still way too many, I think it gives a very different view on prostitution than the one the PVDA would like us to have. We're talking about 36 women, from the 900 that are working there!
No offense, but don't you think closing down the workplace of 900 women to 'save' 36 women is overreacting a little bit? And by the way, in what way is closing the work place for these women, going to save those 36 from being raped? Do they really think those women who are being raped wouldn't be put to work somewhere else by their pimp, if they lost their place to work in the Red Light District?

It seems that the PVDA is defending their plans for closing down windows in the Red Light District of Amsterdam using a scare tactic, in which the more horrific they can make their story, the more support they'll get. Of course to they eyes of the general public this is invisible since they have no idea, but not to those that are in or are related to prostitution. But the PVDA has very cleverly put everyone that is connected to prostitution away as criminals, disqualifying them from the debate, and have silenced everybody else who stood up against them as 'a supporter of human trafficking' if they do not agree.
As I've talked about before in this post here, closing down the windows in the Red Light District doesn't stop human trafficking and forced prostitution, but in fact only makes the chances of human trafficking bigger because the police and other authorities loose them out of sight. After all, how can you fight something if you can't see it?

You could even say that the plans from the PVDA to reduce the number of windows in Amsterdam, is supporting human trafficking and forced prostitution. After all, it's because of their policy that women have lost their safe workplace, and by taking away their safety of their workplace, they've indirectly been responsible for all the women that have become victims of human trafficking, due to the fact that they where not protected anymore.
In fact, it's almost as if mayor Van der Laan seems to be protecting pimps, by keeping them out of sight of the police and other authorities, by moving those women away from protected areas like the Red Light District, causing them to work unprotected in prostitution, like in hotels and homes.
They've also neglected to support the women who lost their safe workplace in the Red Light, neglecting to look after their safety. Now isn't one of the first priorities for any government to look after the safety of the people living and working there? Then how can you claim to fight human trafficking, by removing people from a safe place to work, leaving them no other option (since they get no help or support) but to work in places that don't provide the safety the Red Light District offers?
After all, where are these women to go, if they loose their safe workplace, don't get any help or support from anyone, loose their income, and are not being monitored or helped by anyone, with a good chance of ending up in the very hands of those the PVDA claims to be protecting them from?
If you're reducing the number of safe workplaces for people, and not offering them any way out, or any help to get started somewhere or with something else, you're neglecting those people, and you are responsible for what happens to those people. And can anyone explain to me why people think it's a good reason to reduce the number of safe workplaces for employers, and why anyone could even think that reducing the number of safe workplaces will help the safety?

No, the mayor of Amsterdam, and with him the PVDA in Amsterdam itself, has no interest in saving women from being raped. They only pretend to be the saviors, while actually helping the pimps to stay out of the hands of the police and other authorities, by forcing prostitutes to work in places that are less protected. The PVDA is helping pimps, and is helping forced prostitution and human trafficking with their plans to close down safe workplaces in the Red Light District.
Fact is that right now there may be around 36 women that are being raped on a daily base in the Red Light District, but if the PVDA continues with their plans, the total number of prostitutes in Amsterdam getting raped might get much higher then the 400 that Van der Laan talked about. If that is their goal, they should continue closing down more windows. But if they want to save women from forced prostitution, they should offer them a safe place to work, a right that every worker has.
So if they really want to fight human trafficking, they will create new workplaces in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, to ensure the safety of the women working there now, and also to ensure the safety of the women that have lost their safe workplace due to the policy of the city government and the PVDA. Create more safe workplaces, so you can ensure the safety of more women, to protect them against pimps and traffickers and fight forced prostitution. You're not gonna safe them if you can't find them after you kick them out.

Dutch version
Why Amsterdam really closed the Red Light District
As I've talked about in this post before here, the city government of Amsterdam has been closing down windows under the pretenses of fighting human trafficking. And like I explained in that post, the policy of closing down windows, or buying them actually, hasn't helped in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, they've only put the girls in more danger by closing down their safe workplaces.
Now I'm willing to believe a lot of things, but what I don't believe is that the city government of Amsterdam was ever really interested in fighting human trafficking. And I believe that for a number of reasons. First of all, because everyone could've figured out by him or herself that closing down windows doesn't help in any way to fight human trafficking, it only endangers those women that loose their workplace, because you loose them out of sight. You can't protect people if you don't know where they are, and girls in need of help can't call for it. Also virtually every prostitution organisation warned the city government of Amsterdam about this, yet they still continued with their plans.
And secondly I don't believe it, because the prostitution windows aren't the only thing being attacked by the city government of Amsterdam. Also the coffeeshops are being attacked by the city government of Amsterdam. In the eyes of the city government of Amsterdam, those coffeeshops are crime-related, just like how prostitution would be crime-related. And on top of that, also other small shops have been branded as 'undesirable', and have been threatened to be closed down because they would also be crime-related.
Things like human trafficking, forced prostitution, money laundering and other criminal activities where mentioned by former alderman Lodewijk Asscher as the main reason for closing down large parts of the Red Light District, not just windows, but shops, coffeeshops and everything else they saw as crime-related.

As I've already said in my previous post about Amsterdam's policy towards prostitution, the city government of Amsterdam has lost every single case against business owners that where considered to be crime-related. So why does the city government of Amsterdam keep threatening to close down businesses which where already proven to be clean? Is it really because there's something wrong going on, that nobody can find, and even the city government itself can't prove? Is there really so much crime happening every day in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, like how former alderman Lodewijk Asscher suggested, that I haven't seen in 4 years time working there every single day? Am I really missing out on it, or is it something else?
Is there perhaps some other interest the city government has in the center of Amsterdam, that's so important, that only companies in the center of Amsterdam, in the heart of the Red Light District, are being threatened to close down? After all, why would this crime only be concentrated around the Red Light District area, one of the most protected areas in Amsterdam, where police are on the street every second of the day, where camera's are running 24/7? Why would crime only be happening in coffeeshops in the Red Light District, while there are so many coffeeshops outside of the Red Light District as well?

Some people have suggested the real interest of the city government lies within the buildings. That the city government of Amsterdam wouldn't really be interested in fighting crime, but rather be interested in the value of the buildings most of these 'crimes' where happening. But knowing that the city government doesn't buy those buildings, but rather a real estate company does that for the city government, I doubt that. In fact, the partners of the city government of Amsterdam, those real estate companies, only have lost money on this whole clean up project, and have even quit the project, because the people who are in those buildings now pay hardly any to sometimes even no rent at all, if they can find someone to get into those buildings in the first place. Many of the former window prostitution buildings are now empty, some are being occupied, like I talked about in the previous post.

No, the answer lies within something else. There is an influential group of people living in the center of Amsterdam. Within this group of people there are influential business people, politicians and other people with deep pockets, which apparently the city government wanted to keep as friends. These people have been living there for years already, and they've seen the Red Light District grow from a nice neighborhood into a massive tourists attraction. After the legalization of prostitution and softdrugs in 2000, they've seen tourism grow massively. Huge groups of English tourists coming to the Red Light District, to party, drink, smoke legally a joint and visit legally a prostitute. The end result was drunk English tourists making a lot of noise, harassing people and pissing against people their doors and houses because they where too drunk and stoned to realize what they where doing.
The citizens living in and around the Red Light District grew restless, they got angry, and demanded the city government to do something about it, as one of them, Piet Leeghwater (later revealed to be Gerrit van der Veen), wrote about here on 22 February 2008. Something had to change. And so they formed a collective, together with other people from the city government and the police and some local business owners, and formed the IBO (Integraal Burgwallen Overleg). This group, under the lead of Gerrit van der Veen, became a powerful influence on the city governments policy, under the wings of former alderman Lodewijk Asscher.
But what could they do about those annoying drunk English tourists causing trouble all the time? They couldn't tell those people to stay home. The police was already having problems to control them, so that wasn't an option as well. Some how, the city government needed to find a way to get rid of these kind of tourists, and attract different kind of tourists. Friendlier kind of tourists, the kind that are quiet and nice, that don't get drunk, tourists with children and stuff. Hold on! We need families with children!!!

And so it happened that the city government of Amsterdam, under the wings of Lodewijk Asscher, started to work on a plan, closely together with the IBO, on attracting different kinds of tourists, by changing the face of Amsterdam from prostitution and drugs into a family friendly city. Prostitution and drugs would needed to be reduced, as well as shops that sold things that where not family friendly, like sexshops etc. Cafe's and bars would needed to be hold back, and something else would have to come in place to attract the new kind of tourists that wouldn't cause any trouble.
Lodewijk Asscher cunningly used false stories about crime-related businesses in the Red Light District as an acceptable excuse for the general public to reduce the Red Light District. He used false stories of Patricia Perquin (read more about that here), to suggest many women would be trafficked and forced into prostitution, and claimed reducing the number of windows would help to get better control over the area (the fact that other girls would simply disappear apparently didn't matter to him). He claimed to be helping prostitutes, and who could argue with someone like that? The people who are against prostitution got what they wanted (less prostitution), and the people that a were in favor of prostitution couldn't argue with a plan that would help victims.
A few people protested against these plans, but anyone who protested would be considered a supporter of human trafficking by Lodewijk Asscher (a tactic he borrowed from Bush), saying if you're not with us, you're against us. By closing down windows it would become less interesting for those English tourists to come to Amsterdam, and in stead move on to other places with legal prostitution like to Germany for instance.

But closing down windows wouldn't be enough. Also the coffeeshops where a target for this plan, and needed to be reduced. After some failed ideas (read here), recently the city government has finally achieved that (read it here). Now they don't have to give out new permits to existing coffeeshops, because according to the court they could indeed be involved with crime. The fact that no crime was ever proven in a coffeeshop was irreverent, the city government is the boss, and they can do what they want how they sit fit. Also the fact that a new law that states that coffeeshops cannot be close to schools, enabled the court to agree with the city government. This law was initially used to prevent minors from buying cannabis in coffeeshops (even though cannabis is illegal for minors already) and smoke it during school time, but apparently University student counts as minors as well.

Also cafe's and bars got a tough time ahead, as they got closure times, so they wouldn't cause too much noise for the people in the neighborhood. The fact that most of these bars where already there long before most people where even living there, doesn't matter apparently. I also wonder why people would complain about the noise of bars and cafe's, since you know when you live in the center of Amsterdam that this is the case. Also sexshops got to deal with closure times, before they could be open all night long, along with the Red Light District itself, but now all of the sudden they had to close down at 10 'o clock at night.
All of these policies where created with one single goal in mind, to reduce the number of drunk English tourists causing trouble in the center of Amsterdam.

And to attract the new type of tourists the city government wanted to attract, they focused on the grand reopening of Amsterdam's biggest and most famous museum, the Rijksmuseum. But of course that wouldn't be enough, there would need to be some kind of big promotion or international publicity stunt to show people all over the world the new face of Amsterdam. Not the face of the Red Light District, prostitutes, drugs etc. But that of a clean and nice city filled with culture and history, a city you could take your entire family to.

And so it happened that the American president Barack Obama recently kicked off one of the world's largest marketing campaign (proof here) for a city and a museum by visiting the Rijksmuseum and holding a press conference in front of one of the world's most famous paintings, the Night Watch from Rembrandt.
Not very surprising, the Rijksmuseum had a record breaking opening year, and also the news covered here how the Rijksmuseum added a lot to the growth of tourism in Holland.

But now what about the aftermath. Has trouble making English people disappeared and been replaced with family friendly tourists? Partially, because even though the new Rijksmuseum attracted a lot of new tourists, those will not become regulars. The tourists that come to the Red Light District come back every year, year after year, because those people love it here in Amsterdam, because here they can do all the things they can't do at home, like smoke weed and go to prostitutes. But how many times will people come back to visit the same museum with the same paintings? They won't. They'll come once, and after they'll go to other countries and cities that also have museums, just like Amsterdam.
Fact is, that Amsterdam is trying to compete in a competition that is too big. Huge cities with enormous budgets like New York, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, etc. They're all big cities with many more museums then Amsterdam has, and they all have their own identity as museum cities. While Amsterdam will always been known for it's drugs and prostitution, no matter what you do.
And the only thing all those new rules and policies have achieved, is that because those cafe's and bars have to close so early now, all those drunk people keep hanging in the streets of the Red Light District, because they have no place to go, and they start making trouble at my work in the Red Light District.

Recently a Dutch TV channel made a two-part documentary about the closing of the Red Light District (part one and part two here). The documentary showed perfectly how the city government of Amsterdam used the story of human trafficking as an excuse to close down parts of the Red Light District, but not for the safety of the women. In the documentary called 'De slag om de Wallen' (translation: The battle for the Red Light District), mayor Eberhard van der Laan was seen heavily agitated by the interviewer who confronted the mayor with the results of the policies of Amsterdam. It was clear the mayor didn't like it, and he had trouble to answer some of the questions the interviewer asked him. It's showing just how much the mayor, but also former alderman Lodewijk Asscher, have lied to keep a small group of influential people happy in order to maintain their power.

The fact that dozens of women ended up without a save workplace, and simply vanished into nothingness, not knowing if they're safe or in danger, the fact that Amsterdam's cafe's and bars have drawn empty because of the new closing times and reduction of tourists for the Red Light, the fact that sexshops struggle to survive as their income has dropped enormously since they've had to close down before the Red Light get's busy, and the fact that dozens of companies and their employers have ended up without a job apparently mean nothing to them. Apparently the interests of a few important people with money and influence is more important then the lives and jobs of dozens, if not hundreds of other people. And the sad thing is, it won't work, because people will always come back to the Red Light District, because that's unique, and a city with a museum isn't.

(With a huge thanks to my boyfriend for the research and the website of Marcel Katée for a lot of the information)

Dutch version


How to prevent human trafficking
These days governments in Europe, and actually all over the world are so worried about human trafficking. The Dutch government is no exception to that. Especially saving women from human trafficking in prostitution seems to be top priority these days. A delegation of the Dutch government recently even payed a visit to Romania and Bulgaria to talk about it. The idea to stop human trafficking at the source, rather than the destination, seems to be the target now. And rightfully so, I'd say.

But what has the Dutch government themselves done thus far to prevent this from happening, and fight human trafficking? The government has made human trafficking illegal, and with that I mean, they made it illegal to exploit someone and they made forced labor illegal, both things that where already illegal but apparently needed another law specifically so we can call it human trafficking. And they made it illegal for someone else to help a prostitute crossing a border to work in prostitution.
I've already talked about that before in this post here, that prostitutes need help to get started here. But the people helping are by default criminals for the human trafficking law, even if the prostitute herself agrees on it, and even if those human traffickers have no bad intentions at all. In short, it's illegal to help a girl into prostitution, no matter if she agrees on it or not.
But what has the government done to prevent this from happening? Did they come up with an idea how to support people from entering prostitution in a save way if they want it? No! And because the government doesn't offer a solution for this, it leaves prostitutes no other choice but to get help from a human trafficker, and thereby becoming a victim of human trafficking themselves. In other words, it's the government themselves that drives prostitutes into the hands of human traffickers, because of a lack of support for prostitutes.

If the government was to help women who want to enter prostitution, there would be no need for the prostitutes to accept help from others. Instantly you would make it safer for prostitutes to enter prostitution in the first place, and you help prevent prostitutes from falling in the wrong hands. You could fight human trafficking, exploitation and forced prostitution all at the same time.
In stead they choose to not support prostitutes in any way, keep on making new rules to try and catch human traffickers, which only backfires (closing windows, prostitution registrations etc.), and on top of that close safe work places, leaving prostitutes no option but to move to unsafe work places, with as a result that again they could fall into the hands of a human trafficker.
Sometimes it almost looks like the government wants prostitutes to become victims of human trafficking, they push girls with so many things into that direction, that you'd almost begin to wonder if they want to create more victims or less. Almost like they're interested in creating so many victims, that eventually they will just say legalizing prostitution was a bad idea, because they only got more victims. Well, of course, if you push girls into human trafficking with these kind of laws, no wonder you create more victims.

What I don't understand is why the government doesn't do anything to help girls get started in prostitution. There's obviously a need for help since a lot of girls want it, and that help now comes from people who are being called pimps or human traffickers, even though many of them have no bad intentions at all. In fact, most people who are considered by law to be human traffickers are not bad people at all, but rather just people helping prostitutes, many of them are prostitutes themselves, working here and helping friends to come over here. Only a few people with bad intentions take advantage of girls who need help, and afterwards start to demand for more money, but this is only a small portion. Most of these people helping prostitutes are just providing a service to help the girls get started, a service the government neglects to provide.

Within these services we can count in financial help to get started, a bank loan for instance would solve this problem, but right now prostitutes by default can't get a loan from a bank, and also many people from Eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary) get refused for a bank loan. The government has done nothing to improve the situation of prostitutes towards banks. Prostitutes in Holland these days still can't even get a bank account from most banks (except ING, but only personal bank accounts and not business bank accounts), let alone a loan or a mortgage.

Secondly housing is a service these people offer help with. Prostitutes are often refused apartments solely based on their jobs, and this comes from the bad reputation prostitution has. A campaign to improve the reputation of prostitution, and perhaps a law to forbid people from asking people about their jobs would solve this problem. You can still show papers that can prove your income, and give house owners their guarantee, but there's no need for them to know exactly what job you're doing, in my opinion that's privacy. It prevents people from getting discriminated based on their profession. Right now the government does nothing for this, and they're surprised when they find 10 girls living together, and think it's suspicious and a sign of human trafficking, while many of these girls live together simply because they can't find a place to live.

A third service these people offer is good information. The government spends right now a lot of money on telling you what not to do in prostitution, and how to not become a victim of human trafficking, but nobody tells you how to start this job in a safe way. And there's no information available out there to inform girls about the reality of prostitution in stead of the stories all people hear on TV. I myself had a very different idea about prostitution before I started talking with the people that helped me to come here, but thanks to them I got good information about this profession which changed my mind and eventually made me decide to come here. Again a campaign with good information about prostitution would be the solution here, but all the government does is warn you about the bad things in prostitution, and not how to start it.

These people who are now being considered criminals for helping prostitutes, because the government neglects to help us, would in any other profession considered to be unemployment agency helping people to find a job. These people help to fight the unemployment in Europe, one of the biggest problems the European Union has right now, and yet they're being considered criminals. And why is it no problem to help someone find a job in another country, except when it's prostitution? The only reason I can think of why this is illegal, is because people 'think' prostitution is a job nobody would want to do, and therefore by default all prostitutes must be victims, but that's simply not true. In fact, most of the women from Eastern Europe come here, because prostitution is legal, and thereby safe to work, something their own country doesn't have.

And all of this is happening because of a stupid human trafficking law that forbids things that where already illegal (exploitation, and forced labor), but also forbids people from helping prostitutes if they want help.
In that way, the government doesn't seem to want to prevent girls from becoming victims of human trafficking, but rather prevent girls from entering prostitution at all. And my question would be to the government, why are you preventing girls from entering prostitution, when you made it a legal job yourselves?

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.