'No moral judgment'

Amsterdam’s first woman mayor has a plan to make sex work safer

A view of the red light district in Amsterdam on December 17, 2007. (REUTERS/Koen van Weel)

Amsterdam’s first woman mayor wants to improve conditions for the city’s sex workers, and her past support for their profession may overcome long-held skepticism about government involvement.

Mayor Femke Halsema, a former Green Party leader, said her administration is working to update the city’s current prostitution policy with the help of local sex workers, sex business owners, researchers, and police. Among the measures being discussed are a possible change to city law that would allow for sex work in apartments outside De Wallen, Amsterdam’s best-known red-light district.

Under current law, sex workers who work behind windows, as they do in De Wallen, are barred from recruiting clients online Yet, a 2017 survey of sex workers found that 80 percent felt that online recruitment improved the quality of their working lives. Many also believed it enhanced their safety because the internet allowed them to vet potential clients before meeting them.

Speaking to The Lily, an employee going by the name of Karin at the Prostitution Information Center said that many sex workers were wary of government initiatives that are ostensibly meant to help them. In one case, she noted, complaints about tourists videoing women as they solicited clients through the windows of their brothels resulted in the municipality closing down the brothels in question.

“The tourists misbehave, yet we’re the ones who are punished,” she said.

But Halsema’s past support for sex work, which has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000, has given some optimism that she could make brothels safer without compromising sex workers’ ability to make a living.

“I have no moral judgment about the work these women do, but I do have a moral judgment about the safety and circumstances in which they do their work,” said Halsema in October.

Read the full story at The Lily.

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