Prostitution in the Netherlands

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Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal. However, prostitutes must be at least 18, while for non-commercial sex the age of consent is 16. Clients must be at least 16. Violation of either age limit is a crime for the other party, and possibly for a pimp. Prostitutes pay taxes and are otherwise treated like any other self-employed tradesperson. Advertising their services is likewise tolerated. The prostitutes are usually self-employed, though not always. Health and social services are readily available, but the women are not required to undergo regular health checks. A recent study found that despite health rules, about 7 percent of Dutch prostitutes have HIV/AIDS. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

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[edit] Current situation

Image:Amsterdam red light district 24-7-2003.JPG
The red light district in Amsterdam

Prostitution has long been tolerated in the Netherlands under the gedoogbeleid (policy of tolerance) with the reasoning that the worlds 'oldest profession' has proven impossible to ban by any government. Indeed in where it is banned it is usually the prostitute who is the victim and, as the easiest target, the one who suffers criminal prosecution instead of the client or pimp. In an effort to stop the exploitation of sex workers, prostitution in brothels was legalised in the Netherlands in October 2000. This also gave the government the opportunity to tax prostitution and for prostitutes to pay social security and receive benefits and pensions. By legitimising prostitutes as workers, it is viewed that this will help remove control from the criminal element and make it easier to clamp down on exploitation.

Window prostitution is the most visible form, though only takes up about 20% of the entire sex industry in the Netherlands. Windows are rented for 8 hour shifts for some 60-150 euro (depending on the time and place), which includes closed-circuit security. Fifteen to twenty minutes of sex cost about 40 to 50 euro (though prices can go both higher and lower according to the service). Despite the legalization, some of the working women are still illegal immigrants. These prostitutes cannot work in the windows, since a European Union passport is required to rent one.

Some municipalities in the Netherlands would like a "zero-tolerance policy" for brothels on moral grounds, but by law this is not possible. However, regulations, including restrictions in number and location, are common. Whether a zero-tolerance policy on urban planning grounds is allowed is still unclear.

There are twelve red-light districts with window prostitution in the Netherlands. A thirteenth (Spijkerkwartier in Arnhem) was closed down in 2005.

The largest and best-known is De Wallen in Amsterdam, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt.

Not to be outdone, Utrecht also boasts an impressive red light district, centered around the area north of the famous Rode Brug (red bridge), containing more than one hundred canal boats and also a smaller city center street called Hardebollenstraat.

An article in Le Monde in 1997 found that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers, suggesting that at least some were victims of sex trafficking, forced prostitution. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The Netherlands is one of a number of destination countries in Europe for trafficked women (many of whom are led to believe by organised criminals that they are being offered work in hotels or restaurants or in child care and are forced into prostitution with the threat or actual use of violence).

In an effort to crack down on forced prostitution, a campaign <ref>Template:Cite web</ref> was launched in 2005 in magazines through posters put up around the red-light districts encouraging clients to report signs of coercion. The poster has an eyecatching silhouette of a spikehealed prostitute with long hair leaning back but on closer inspection another picture reveals a gun being held to the female's head. The caption reads "Have you seen the signals? Fear, bruises, no 'pleasure' in the job." It then goes on to offer a phone number which clients can call anonymously.

In 2004 the Norwegian government published a report comparing two opposite choices in dealing with prostitution, the Dutch one and the (prohibitionist and criminalizing) Swedish choice. It turned out that, although there are still some unsatisfactory issues, the Dutch approach seems to be much more effective than the Swedish one in ruling prostitution and fighting crime.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Prostitution population

A study by the Dutch Ministery of Foreign Affairs in 2000 estimated that there are a total of between twenty thousand and twenty-five thousand prostitutes in the Netherlands on a yearly basis. Approximately 32% are Dutch, 22% are Latin American, 19% are Eastern European, 13% are African (south of the Sahara), 6% come from other countries from the European Union (aside from the Netherlands), 5% come from Northern Africa and 3% are Asian. Approximately 5% of the prostitutes are male, and another 5% are transsexual. However with new legislation from 2001 that prohibits migrants from outside the European Union to work legally, demographics most likely have shifted.

Prostitutes in the Netherlands work in several types of prostitution. The most common form is in sex clubs and private houses. Approximately 45% of the prostitutes work in this type of prostitution (private houses are brothels where prostitutes are directly introduced to the clients in a separate room, there is no bar and the client is not confronted with other clients). Approximately 20% works in window prostitution, 15% in the escort, 5% on the streets and 5% in their own homes. An estimated 10% works in other types of prostitutes, like massage parlours, sexshops, sex theaters and bars. (Numbers based on estimates in 1998-1999 <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>)

[edit] Human trafficking in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a primary country of destination for victims of human trafficking. Estimates of the number of victims vary from 1000 to 7000 on a yearly basis.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The victims mainly originate from the Netherlands, Africa and Eastern Europe, particularly from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. Most police investigations on human trafficking concern legal sex businesses. All sectors of prostitution are well represented in these investigations, but particularly the window brothels are overrepresented.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Over the years there has been a significant increase of registered Dutch victims of human trafficking. In 2005 23% of the persons registered at the Dutch foundation against women trafficking were Dutch citizens.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] History

During the Middle Ages, prostitution was not prohibited. The attitude of worldly and religious authorities towards prostitution was pragmatic. Many cities tolerated prostitution to protect chaste female citizens from rape and defilement. There were however, a number of conditions imposed on prostitutes and their clients. Prostitutes were not allowed to be married. Married men and Jewish men were prohibited from hiring prostitutes.

Still, prostitution was considered a dishonorable profession. Prostitutes were not expected to conform to sexual rules, but prostitutes were not protected by the law. The concept of “honor” was very important in early modern Dutch society. Honor had social significance, but it also had legal ramifications. "Honorable" people had more rights. Until the late sixteenth century honor, aside from citizenship, was the most important criterion for the stratification of society.

Despite the fact that prostitution was seen as indispensable, city governments tried to separate "dishonorable" prostitution from the honorable world. Until the fifteenth century, Dutch cities tried to keep prostitution outside of the city walls. Later, city governments tried to reserve certain areas of the city for prostitution. Prostitution businesses were driven to the streets and alleys near the city walls.

During the sixteenth century, attitudes about sexuality changed under the influence of the Spanish occupation and rising Protestantism. Sexual relations were only tolerated within marriage. Church and state were not separated, and what was defined by the church as a sin was defined as a crime by the government. Prostitution and procurement were viewed as a sin and therefore prohibited. However, during this century the city of Amsterdam started to regulate prostitution. Only the police and the bailiff and his servants could keep a brothel in the Pijl and Halsteeg (currently the Damstraat). Prostitutes who practiced their trade in other parts of the city were arrested and their clients fined. Prostitution was a lucrative trade for the bailiff’s servants as well as for the city treasury. In 1578, the city of Amsterdam left the Spanish side during the Netherlands uprising and converted from Catholicism to Calvinism. The city then stopped regulating prostitution.

Calvinistic morals were mirrored in the government policies of the seventeenth century. Titillating activities like dancing, fairs and prostitution were sometimes outlawed. This morality didn’t, however, always correspond with the views and customs of the people. During the Golden seventeenth century sexuality was openly displayed in paintings and in literature. The image of the prostitute in literature was very negative. Prostitutes were portrayed as unreliable, impudent, lazy and often ugly and dirty. In paintings, the image of the prostitute was more positive. Brothel-scenes were an important subject and prostitutes were painted as beautiful young women. The clients, however, were portrayed as fools who allowed themselves to be deceived. In both literature and paintings the madams were portrayed as evil profiteers. The authorities couldn’t uphold the laws against prostitution and tended to leave brothels alone if they didn’t cause trouble.

During the eighteenth century the morals preached by the church and government became more in line with certain developments within Dutch society. There was a growing middle class which tried to distinguish itself by a strong work ethic and self-control. By restrained sexual behavior, the middle class could separate itself from the 'loose' lower class as well as the indecent nobility. Rich and poor also began to separate geographically. Prior to this period different social classes lived side by side, but they now lived in separate neighborhoods. The image of women also changed. Bourgeouis women were seen by men of their class as faithful and chaste, but working-class women were viewed by middle class men as potential whores.

The working conditions of prostitutes were very poor. There was no proper birth control, condoms were not widely available and there were no effective cures against venereal diseases. Prostitutes often became pregnant and, because of venereal diseases they eventually became infertile. This situation only improved during the twentieth century.

Prostitutes allowed very little sexual variation. The only sexual positions which were tolerated were the missionary position and standing upright, face to face. Anal sex, kissing and oral sex were strictly taboo.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century the armies of Napoleon started to regulate prostitution in the Netherlands (in 1810) to protect soldiers against venereal diseases. Prostitutes were forced to register and were subjected to mandatory medical examinations. Registered prostitutes were handed a red card which was a sort of work permit. If they were found to be infected, their red card was taken and they were given a white card instead while they were prohibited from working and were only allowed to work when declared fit. After the French occupation the Dutch government stopped regulating prostitution, but during several decades slowly began to regulate prostitutes again in the same style as under the French occupation. Many scientists during the nineteenth century believed that sexual abstinence for men was unhealthy. In their eyes it was unavoidable that a number of women had to sacrifice themselves to protect the rest of the women from destruction of an even more revolting kind. The women who had to sacrifice themselves were supposed to be lower class. Prostitutes themselves, however, were still despised and portrayed as disgusting creatures. Lower class people themselves detested prostitutes. Prostitutes stood outside society.

During this period, sexual morals became stricter and a counter movement arose against regulated prostitution. In the beginning, this movement consisted of wealthy orthodox-protestant Christians, but it later got support from other movements like Catholics, socialists, feminists and progressive liberals. They attacked the idea that men could not abstain from sex. Clients were viewed as low, dirty lechers, and the clients were not the young unmarried men prostitution was meant for, but were often well-off middle-aged married men. They also attacked the mandatory medical examinations which were deemed degrading and ineffective to stop the spread of venereal diseases. Many prostitutes lived in the brothels and were bound to the madams by debts to pay off expensive working clothes. Prostitutes were often sold among madams, were subjected to fines, and could only leave the brothel under supervision. Medical expenses were added to their debt. Brothel keepers throughout Europe sold women among each other. The abolitionist movement (as the opponents of prostitution were called) in the Netherlands was largely connected to the international abolitionist movement. The movement slowly gained more influence and during the last decades of the nineteenth century city governments slowly started to abolish regulated prostitution. At first, the abolitionist movement mainly targeted mandatory health checks for prostitutes, but when the movement became more successful the focus shifted towards the people who profited from prostitution. In 1911 the living on the avails of prostitution and owning a brothel were prohibited by law. Prostitution itself was not prohibited.


THE PRESENT SITUATION

During the second half of the twentieth century, prostitution was condoned by many local governments. The police only interfered when public order was at stake or in cases of human trafficking. Brothel prohibition made it difficult to set out rules for the sex industry. During the eighties many municipalities urged the national government to lift the ban on brothels. In 1983 Minister Korthals Altes presented an amendment to the law on prostitution. It took until October 1, 2000 for prostitution to be fully legalized.

Dutch attitudes regarding prostitution support legalization and normalization. Public opinion polls conducted in the late 1990s show that the Dutch public overwhelmingly rejects the notion that prostitution is unacceptable, deviant behavior. In a 1997 survey, 73 percent of Dutch citizens favored legalization of brothels, 74 percent said that prostitution was an "acceptable job," and in a 1999 poll 78 percent felt that prostitution is a job like any other job (polls cited in Weitzer 2000, p. 178).

Until the 1970s, prostitutes in the Netherlands were predominantly white lower-class women from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Northern Germany. During the seventies, in the wake of the sex trips to South-East Asia by Dutch men, the sex operators brought in women from Thailand and the Philippines. In the eighties there was a second wave from Latin America and Africa. In the nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, women came from Eastern Europe. Foreign prostitutes are economically motivated to come to The Netherlands, and they tend to travel to engage in sex work between Holland, Germany, Belgium, and other European societies..

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