Open letter: Ruin Amsterdam? Yes, we can!

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm

It is with disbelief that I see the politicians of Amsterdam are doing what they can to ruin the safe work places (i.e. windows) for sex workers in the Red Light District. The crusaders of moralism have marched into this former liberal city, and moral panic reverberates in the city hall corridors. The politicians, led by the mayor, have closed down window after window and sold them off to property investors. The reason? Unsubstantiated allegations and speculations of sex trafficking. Sex workers are thus deprived of the safety that these places provide. Why are people just accepting this reckless foolishness? Are they basically turning a blind eye to what is going on?

To close the windows is not only bereaving workers of safe working spaces, but moral panic is also devouring a pulsating, genuine trademark of the city: what has made Amsterdam so unique. True, not everyone likes to see that sexual services can be bought, but a moralistic viewpoint should never trump personal choices and security. Besides, the Red Light District is one of the major tourist attractions of Amsterdam; isn’t it then peculiar and paradoxical that one tears apart a major landmark of of tourism, tolerance and tax income?

Here is an idea for the city council: to provide the workers with good working conditions and work places that lie within the heart of the city, re-purchase the rooms and reinstate the Red Light District as it once was. Conflating trafficking and sex work helps neither sex workers nor the real cases of trafficking.

The city has also let moralism and discrimination lead the way when raising the age limit for sex workers in Amsterdam to 21. The absurd logic that workers between 18 and 21 are not mature enough, i.e. they are vulnerable and need “saving”, is just another stigma-infused blow to sex workers. Why are politicians – and the citizens – not working towards less discrimination of the occupation? Are they not interested in general welfare and freedom for everyone? Do they think that making such highly discriminatory laws will improve the general safety of sex work? Do they think that workers between 18 and 21 will magically disappear from sex work and “safely” be funneled to other types of jobs, when they wish to continue selling sex, anyway? That is an extremely naïve and dangerous attitude. Nothing, and especially not a law like this, can make conditions better. Not only will this criminalizing lead to further stigma, but it will also lead to a less transparent, black market, and furthermore increase risks for those that the politicians are so eagerly trying to “protect”.

This law fails to comply with logic: The age of majority in the Netherlands is 18. You are allowed to make independent choices and you are responsible for your own life including making a living. If one is to assume that the “immaturity and vulnerability” of an age group is the driving force behind this law, then why are people drafted for military service, where you are potentially forced kill in the name of your country, at the age of 18? Are we to believe that sex work is potentially more dangerous than protecting your country with arms? If you are less able to make conscious, reasonable choices at the age of 18, then why not raise the age of majority to 21 for all occupations? Unless, of course, personal opinions and moralism are the foundation for such a discriminatory law…
As a matter of fact, intolerance is indeed the driving forces behind this narrow-mindedness and it is very, very sad and disturbing. It goes to show how much politicians are willing to sacrifice in the name of moral panic to control individuals.

Finally, I have just a couple of questions that need to be answered:
When will the politicians realize that they have passed discriminatory, bigoted legislation, and repeal this age-limit law? When will the politicians realize that the Red Light District needs to be preserved and cherished instead of ruining sex workers’ working conditions? How on earth can the politicians of Amsterdam get away with this?

The only way to make sex work safer and less stigmatized is to stop this lethal conflation of trafficking and sex work, and remove any unnecessary hinder for transparency. The way it is now, the politicians are doing what they can to cement prejudice and harm to the field of sex work – and freedom in general.

– MJF-


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