The city of Amsterdam wants to tackle illegal prostitution this year by tightening up supervision and enforcement of existing laws, implementing more effective controls and erecting more barriers to make it harder for the practice to continue. Exploitation and human trafficking is much more common in illegal prostitution in Amsterdam than in licensed sex work, argued Mayor Femke Halsema in a letter to the city council on Wednesday
Halsema was also writing on behalf of the head of the local police force and the local district of the Public Prosecution Service. Together, they want to reduce illegal prostitution by “making the business model less profitable, organizing better supervision of the illegal sector and thus promoting the identification of sexual exploitation.” Checking licensed prostitution is relatively easy, but screening for illegal prostitution is “complicated and labour-intensive,” she said.
In the licensed sex work circuit, there are only incidental signs of exploitation, according to Halsema. “Our impression is that the licensed sector generally adheres well to the permit regulations. Intensive checks are carried out by the municipality, with extensive contact with sex workers, and few abuses are found.”
However, a significant part of prostitution in Amsterdam takes place illegally, she said in her letter. This concerns sex work that is carried out without a permit, for example by illegal escort agencies or prostitution organized in homes, hotels and massage parlours. The police and municipality have “little or no insight into this,” which makes the illegal circuit attractive to those intending to exploit victims, according to the mayor.
Last year, the municipality received 135 reports of illegal prostitution, but 60 inspections were carried out. This led to fines, and in some cases, to the closure of a property, including homes, hotels and salons. These were not necessarily closed on a permanent basis.
Additionally, tips or police work identified 134 possible cases of human trafficking. The investigation into these led to 22 arrests.
In addition to a tougher approach to illegal prostitution, the city also wants to create more licensed sex workplaces by constructing an erotic center. At the same time, Halsema and the city’s aldermen intend to shut down an as-yet unknown number of windows where sex workers operate in the Red Light District in the city center.
Three locations have been proposed for the erotic center, including two in Amsterdam-Zuid and one in Amsterdam-Noord. Many residents around the three preferred locations in the have said they do not want the center jammed into their neighborhood for a variety of reasons, including concerns about an increase in public disturbances and crime.
Sex workers are also not happy with the intended complex. They believe the enclosed building will not be as safe as the windows in the Red Light District, which are visible from the street.
Reporting by ANP
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