Amsterdam Sex Workers May Resume Seeing Clients Legally On July 1

LOS ANGELES—Even as many businesses — including those involving close contact such as hair salons — have been allowed to reopen in the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s famed red light district was scheduled to remain shut down until September.

But outcry from the sex worker community appears to have worked. The Dutch government announced last week that legal sex work could resume on July 1. 

"Everyone is very happy with the news that we can finally reopen," Amsterdam sex workers union President Felicia Anna said. "We have no more money." 

Sex workers and business owners there, in a country where sex work has been legal for two decades and widely tolerated for much longer, had suspected that the government may be using the coronavirus crisis as a pretext to end legalization, according to a report by EuroNews

“The lockdown is at the moment a thing for the government to keep us closed a long time — because now they want to get rid of the prostitution!” business owner Jon Broers, who has rented space to Amsterdam sex workers for 50 years, told EuroNews. “They want to get rid of us, they think you get broke and then they can shift you away easily.” 

Due to the pandemic, sex work became effectively illegal in the Netherlands once again. Breaking lockdown rules by accepting clients could have resulted in stiff fines and criminal records.

Sex workers recently staged a demonstration at Amsterdam’s City Hall, with chants of, "Open the windows, open the windows! We want to work! We want to work!’’ 

Sex workers in Amsterdam advertise themselves by posing in windows throughout the red light district, but those windows have been shut down due to the coronavirus crisis. One sex worker, identified only as “Stella,” told EuroNews that the window shutdown has forced many sex workers to go underground, endangering their own safety.

“The government doesn’t see something really important about keeping the windows closed, that it will push much more girls to work illegally,” she said. 

You know if they keep the windows closed, I will probably find a way also to make it illegal. I don’t want to, but they make me to.”

Months before the pandemic hit, in July of 2019, Amsterdam’s Mayor Femke Halsema said that she planned to shut down the windows, as a way of protecting sex workers. 

“I think a lot of the women who work there feel humiliated, laughed at,” Halsema said. “That’s one of the reasons we are thinking about changing."

Photo By Erik Tanghe / Pixabay