'Humiliated, Laughed At': Amsterdam Mayor Proposes Red Light District Overhaul

Amsterdam's first female mayor has proposed sweeping changes to the city's red light district.

Femke Halsema announced the proposal to ban sex workers from displaying themselves in windows throughout the city on Wednesday.

“We’re forced by circumstances because Amsterdam changes,” Halsema said in an interview before the launch.

“I think a lot of the women who work there feel humiliated, laughed at, and that’s one of the reasons we are thinking about changing.”

Amsterdam's red light district. Photo: Getty

A report called  “The Future of Window Prostitution in Amsterdam” outlines four changes to the district that are under serious consideration.

The banning of sex workers displayed in windows, tightening the licensing of window workers, reducing the number of brothels in the city centre and the relocation of brothels to another part of the city have all been proposed.

Photo: Getty

Halsema said an "erotic city zone" would have an entrance gate that is clearly marked, similar to the Herbertstraße red light district in Hamburg's Reeperbahn.

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The Netherlands legalised sex work nearly two decades ago, but social shifts, including the rise of human trafficking and an increase in the number of tourists using their phones to take and post pictures of the women, mean the proposed changes are needed, Halsema said.

Entrance to Herbertstraße; red sign to the right of the gate reads "No entrance for juveniles under 18 years of age and women". Photo: Wikipedia

There is no plan to outlaw sex work outright.

“We legalised prostitution because we thought and still think that legal prostitution give a woman a chance to be autonomous, independent," Halsema said.

"Criminalising prostitution has been done in the United States, which I think makes women extra vulnerable.”

Photo: Getty

There are three main aims behind the changes: protecting women, cutting the crime rate and protecting the 500-year-old neighbourhood that is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

However, much like past efforts to control the Dutch red light district, it is being met with opposition.

“If they close the windows, then all the sex workers will go underground and they’ll need much more people to regulate that, and check that. So, no I don’t think that’s going to work,” said Foxxy Angel, a sex worker who uses a professional name.

Residents and businesses will meet in the town hall in July to choose one of the four options and will be voted on by city council later in the year.

With Reuters.