Amsterdam to close windows in red-light district as sweeping reforms aim to 'clean up' historic city center

A network of narrow alleys and canal-side streets make up the famed district which has 330 prostitution windows. In recent years, the place has become a noisy, overcrowded tourist magnet


                            Amsterdam to close windows in red-light district as sweeping reforms aim to 'clean up' historic city center

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—

The windows where scantily clad sex workers stand to attract customers in Amsterdam could be closing for good. 

The city's mayor proposed fundamental changes Wednesday to the network of narrow alleys and canal-side streets that make up Amsterdam's famed red-light district.

The proposals range from closing the window curtains so sex workers no longer are on public display and shutting down brothels with display windows altogether to adding more windows and moving prostitution somewhere else in the city.

Mayor Femke Halsema said the ideas were intended to protect sex workers' rights, prevent crime, and reduce nuisance for local residents and businesses. Halsema plans to discuss the four proposals for the red-light district's future at two meetings later this month with those affected. In September, the city council will also debate them before narrowing down the options and checking their financial and legal viability.

Public consultation

The announcement of a public consultation on the future of the neighborhood and its 330 prostitution windows marks the latest attempt by Amsterdam officials to clean up a part of the city's historic center that has, in recent years, become a noisy, overcrowded tourist magnet.

A red-light district has existed for centuries close to the city's main waterway. In recent years, the local government has sought to reduce the number of windows and to gentrify the area, but with limited success. On most evenings, large groups of tourists wander through the area, which also is home to peep shows, bars, and marijuana-selling cafes.

Amsterdam says the proposed reforms are consequent to the changes in the sex industry in recent years and the rise in number of tourists. In a statement, the city said that for some visitors, 'a sex worker is nothing more than an attraction to look at.' Increasingly, sex workers also are offering services online, away from the regulated industry in the red-light district. "In this part of the market, abuses happen more often," the city said.

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