How safe are the prostitutes in Amsterdam

Amsterdam red light district: Tourists staring at women


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The Wallen, Amsterdam's famous red light district, is in pandemic sleep. Where before Corona thousands of visitors per hour pushed through the alleys, a single woman is now walking with her dog over the pavement. In the deserted Warmoesstraat, where hotels, clubs, sex shops, souvenir shops, gay bars and cannabis shops are lined up, a small van stops to deliver to the supermarket. It's the only shop that's still open besides the laundromat. On the other shop doors there are notes that read "Temporarily closed".

At the brothel next to the Oude Kerk, one of Amsterdam's landmarks, red neon tubes glow above the windows, in which prostitutes usually present themselves. Now they are empty. The red curtains are pulled to one side, there are red chairs in the window, their arms turned towards the street. A blackbird is now hopping over the sidewalk where tourist groups usually run around, often noisy, often drunk, often filming with their cell phones. It's so quiet you can hear them chirping.

The corona restrictions have brought nightlife in Amsterdam's oldest district to a standstill. The local council recently decided that it should stay that way, at least in part. The approximately 300 red light windows on the walls are to be closed gradually. The sex workers are to move to the outskirts, to a so-called erotic center that has yet to be built. The idea comes from the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema. She wants to create a safe working environment for prostitutes and keep the burden on the surrounding neighborhoods as small as possible. "We want to change the city center," says Femke Halsema. "Up until now, the walls have been teeming with gawkers and party tourists who pollute the neighborhood and treat sex workers with disrespect. It's also the question of how much they actually spend on sex."

Not everything is allowed in Amsterdam either

Halsema wants to turn Amsterdam's "largest open-air museum" back into a city center that locals like to visit. The erotic center on the outskirts is primarily intended to meet the local demand for prostitution. The red light windows in the center are to be gradually closed so that the district loses its attraction for party tourists. "So far it has been a reservoir for people who loudly consume alcohol and drugs and have no eye for the beauty of the city," says Femke Halsema. She wants to do away with the image that everything is allowed in Amsterdam.

Author: Amsterdam

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Photography: Amsterdam undisguised

After the pandemic, Amsterdam is aiming for a new start for tourism, wants to attract fewer sex and drug tourists and instead families and museum visitors. Because the previous mass tourism brought the city not only money and jobs, but also many problems. Critical voices have been saying for years that the city center has become an amusement park, an area that is difficult to bear for the residents. In 2019, almost 22 million visitors came to the city, which itself has less than 900,000 inhabitants. Budget hotels have moved into dozens of vacant office buildings in recent years. The number of overnight stays in the city climbed from twelve million in 2014 to 18 million in 2019. The change in the city center is probably the most important component of a new tourism concept.



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Where and when the erotic center will be built is still unclear, and also what the transition phase will look like. The city is currently speaking to brothel operators, prostitutes and real estate investors. What is certain is that the center should not be hidden in an industrial area and should be easily accessible by public transport. "Sex work is a normal job," says Femke Halsema. "We don't want to ban prostitution. And we definitely don't want it to take place illegally, because then we as a city have no more influence on it."