Prostitution in Amsterdam
Being a harbor city, Amsterdam has a long tradition of strong presence of prostitution. Memorized in numerous books, films and songs, nightlife of Amsterdam has been historically one of its biggest attractions. A classic song by a French-Belgium Jacques Brel “Amsterdam”, describes a night in the city with women and alcohol, where sailors are the main clients. Not many sailors today, but every evening tourists are flocking to the Red Light District. And if they would not visit the working girls, the whole area would not exist.
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Dutch Prostitution Laws
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands since 1830. Until 1980 there was a law (dating from 1911), forbidding taking profit from prostitution. This was the law against people exploiting working girls. In practice the law has been rarely applied and prostitutes were actually not protected. In 1988, prostitution has been recognized as a legal profession. The new law introduced in October 2000 clearly makes prostitution legal, subjecting it to the municipal regulations about the organization and the practice of business. The authorities try to regulate prostitution, aiming at protecting minors, eliminating forced prostitution and combating the new phenomena of human trafficking. Any sex business must obtain from a municipality a license, certifying that it has fulfilled the legal requirements to operate.
Independent entrepreneurs, VAT on the bill
Dutch authorities treat prostitutes as independent entrepreneurs. Working girls (or boys for that matter) have to submit the income tax declaration and pay taxes. Amazingly, in 2007 the judge decided that the VAT which strip dancers have to add to the bill for their performances should be not as on other services - 19%, but lower - the same as on art and artistic performances – 6%.
Monitoring the regulations
The police, urban district council and municipal health authorities are the main bodies responsible for enforcing the existing laws. Police controls sex establishments, to verify that minors or illegal aliens are not working as prostitutes. Also creating nuisance to the surrounding area is seen as a reason to the eventual refusal of the license to lead a sex business. Infringements such as the presence of illegal prostitutes or employment of the minors may be the reason for the business closure. In 2007 the municipality of Amsterdam withdrew the licenses to as many as 30 different sex businesses, accusing them of breaking the existing laws.
Problems linked to Prostitution
The Dutch believe that banning existing social phenomena makes them more difficult to control, and therefore more difficult to eliminate the gravest criminal behavior as trafficking with women, their exploitation and prostitution of minors. Dutch administration makes a big effort to fight all these criminal activities.
Health care and support
The city health services inform the prostitutes about a free or low -cost clinic for sexually transmitted diseases, provide free or low cost medical car. A number of or organizations, some of them established by the prostitutes themselves (often still active as working girls), as the support group The Red Thread (Dutch: De Rode Draad) and the Prostitution Information Center (Prostitutie Informatie Centrum), try to help prostitutes with their problems. Foundations AMOC and Rainbow (Regenboog) are helping the prostitutes with drug problems.
A charitable foundation, which has been established by a former prostitute Mariska Majoor, to inform the society about the prostitution and influence the way we perceive the sex workers has a small shop in the Red Light District (De Wallenwinkel). The PIC shop sells books about the prostitution, organizes lectures and guides tours around the area. Prostitution Information Center together with the union of prostitutes The Red Thread, fight for the rights of working women and has been instrumental in influencing the recent changes in the Dutch prostitution laws.
Visiting the Prostitute – How it works
The Dutch do not see moral restraints in using services of the sex worker. How it works? Walking through the Red Light District you might see the girl you would like to be with. All you have to do is to show your interest through a small gesture. Usually you are immediately invited, after all girls wait for a client. You will have to talk with her at the door what kind of sexual pleasure did you have in mind, and agree upon the price by forehand – usually around € 50,-. You step inside and the curtain on the window is tightly closed and the door locked. The fee is to be paid in advance. You will have your 20 minutes of pleasure you paid for. The condom is a must, whatever you both agreed upon, for your own safety.
A more discrete option to visiting the Red Light District, is a to call an escort. There are many specialized escort agencies or independent escorts offering a companship. This service may vary from a dinner with a model companion to a call-girl visiting a client in the hotel room. The rates of a visiting escort starts at some 150 euros per hour. A company of an exclusive escort offering a "full girl-friend experience" with a possibility staying overnight, would come obviously at a much higher cost.
The Prostitute Monument
A small woman bronze figure stands centrally in the Red Light District, on a square before the Oude Kerk. It represents a prostitute at the door waiting for a customer. The monument has been erected here in 2007 by the Prostitution Information Center and is typical of their approach to the social phenomena of prostitution: it is a profession as any other work. Prostitution is good as long as women (or men) who work as prostitutes do it from their own will, and are not exploited. The sex workers should be respected and their rights protected.