Where is the new red-light district in Amsterdam? Government relocates brothel windows because of bad tourists

'If you walk through the very narrow streets, you see huge crowds of tourists standing in front of the windows photographing foreign women who are vulnerable and laughing at them,' Amsterdam's mayor said


                            Where is the new red-light district in Amsterdam? Government relocates brothel windows because of bad tourists
Prostitutes stand behind windows in the Red Light District as it reopens after the Coronavirus or Covid19 Lockdown on July 01, 2020, in Amsterdam, Netherlands (Getty Images)
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In what can only be considered the end of a landmark, the famous brothel windows of Amsterdam’s red-light district will be closed and a new “erotic center” will be set up away from the city center. As per a Washington Post report, Amsterdam officials have agreed on a proposal by the city’s mayor to overhaul the historic medieval De Wallen (“The Walls”) neighborhood of the city.

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“This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city. Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost,” said Dennis Boutkan, of the Dutch Labour party.

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A general view of the 'Windows' in the "Red Light District" which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands (Getty Images)

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Where is the new red-light district going to be set up?

During a meeting held on Thursday, January 28, the majority of Amsterdam’s city council said they were in favor of creating a new “erotic center” outside of the central district. As per reports, Amsterdam’s city council has gained cross-party support, including that of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, for this.

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema first proposed the location change and the closing of many of the district’s sex-worker windows in 2019. Halsema had argued then that tourists would often visit the red-light district only to gawk at the sex workers from the streets rather than patronize the legal brothels there. As per reports, Amsterdam shut down guided tours in the red light district area in early 2020.

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Halsema told the Guardian in 2019, “If you walk through the very narrow streets, you see huge crowds of tourists standing in front of the windows photographing foreign women who are vulnerable and laughing at them.” 

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A general view of the 'Windows' in the "Red Light District" which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020, in Amsterdam, Netherlands (Getty Images)

As per the Post, the government has also put out public calls for residents to weigh in on the future of sex work in the city and has not said where it plans to have the brothels reopen.

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Halsema, however, does not wish to outlaw sex work altogether. She wants to protect the sex workers who make up Amsterdam’s brothels, unlike CDA, a Christian-democratic political party in Europe. CDA has for years lobbied for sex work to be made illegal in the Netherlands. Yet, Halsema and CDA find themselves on the same side this time.

Not all are in support of the idea

The Guardian reported that when the idea was first proposed in 2019, a newly formed lobby group named Red Light United claimed that 90 percent of the 170 female sex workers it had surveyed wanted to work in the windows in Singel and De Wallen. At that time, a member of the group, under the condition of anonymity, told a local newspaper that, “Relocating those workplaces is not an option because then the customers will not know where to find the sex workers. Will Halsema also sometimes organize bus trips for them to the Westelijk Havengebied [a district north of the city center]?”

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A general view of the 'Windows' in the "Red Light District" which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Getty Images)

Red Light United, as per its website, is the “union for window prostitutes in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Only sex workers that work behind the windows in the Red Light District of Amsterdam can become a member of our union.”

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The website claims that over 90 percent of its members are sex workers from Eastern Europe. All of the group’s board members are Romanian at this time. Romanian sex workers, the group claims, are more than 60 percent of its members. Currently, the union has reached 110 members in the Red Light District.

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