Europe

Amsterdam's first female mayor plans red light district overhaul

Window workers in Amsterdam could soon be banned, under proposed changes by the city's mayor. Source: AAP

Amsterdam's first female mayor has launched plans to overhaul the city's red light district and its window displays, in a bid to protect sex workers from gawping tourists.

In what could be the most radical revamp of the sex trade in Amsterdam since the Dutch legalised prostitution nearly two decades ago, new mayor Femke Halsema has suggested stopping the practice of sex workers standing in window-fronted rooms, among other options.

She said changes were needed because of a shift in social attitudes, including the rise of human trafficking and an increase in the number of tourists visiting the district and using their phones to take and post pictures of the women online.

"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," Ms Halsema said.

Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema plans to overhaul the red light district.
Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema plans to overhaul the red light district.
Twitter

The plans included four main scenarios: ending street window displays, relocating city-centre brothels, reducing the number of brothels and stepping up the licensing of window workers.

The scenarios, drawn up in a report titled The Future of Window Prostitution in Amsterdam, also included a broader proposal for an "erotic city zone" that would have a clear entrance gate, similar to a system used in Hamburg.

The options will be presented to residents and businesses at town hall meetings this month before one is chosen and put to a vote in the city council later this year, Ms Halsema said.

Past efforts to control the red light district have faced opposition from sex workers and businesses involved in the lucrative trade.

The mayor said there were no plans to outlaw prostitution outright.

"We legalised prostitution because we thought and still think that legal prostitution gives a woman a chance to be autonomous, independent. Criminalising prostitution has been done in the United States, I think, makes women extra vulnerable."

The proposed changes aim to protect sex workers from 'degrading work conditions'.
The proposed changes aim to protect sex workers from 'degrading work conditions'.
AP

She said the changes had three main aims - to protect women from degrading work conditions, cut crime and to revive the 500-year-old neighbourhood which, along with Amsterdam's canals, is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

One sex worker and member of PROUD, a union defending the prostitutes' interests, said the women there were facing increasingly disrespectful behaviour.

"The tourists don't know how to behave themselves in this area," said the woman who asked to remain anonymous.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch