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Amsterdam sex workers protest closing 'window' brothels

April 9, 2015

Hundreds of prostitutes and their supporters have gathered in the streets of Amsterdam over intended shuttering of windows that sex workers use to attract clients. About 115 of those windows have already been closed.

Prostituierte Symbolbild
Image: AFP/Getty Images

The famously open-minded Dutch city plans to rejuvenate the historic alleys and canals in the red light district by reducing the number of windows used by prostitutes. In addition, city authorities have also proposed closing down of some of the brothels in the red light district, in a bid to combat human trafficking.

However, sex workers claim shuttering deprives them of a safe place to work.

Several hundreds of prostitutes and their supporters marched in protest through the red light district on Thursday, carrying red umbrellas and banners such as "Don't save us, save our windows!" Many of the sex workers also wore masks to hide their identity.

"Sex is a legal career in the Netherlands and we need support, we want to be taken seriously by politicians," said a spokeswoman for the prostitutes cited by Dutch press agency ANP.

Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands for the last 15 years.

"We are, nonetheless, being treated like pariahs and kicked out of the neighborhood without anyone asking our opinion," she added.

Workers 'more vulnerable'

The protesters entered the city hall, where they presented a petition to Mayor Eberhard van der Laan.

Ruth Morgan-Thomas, from Global Network of Sex Work Projects, said the city was going in the wrong direction by closing the windows.

"Amsterdam had it right," she said. "They enabled women and men and transgenders to work safely. Now they are closing windows. That makes people more vulnerable."

Thousands of prostitutes from poor countries

More than 100 of the city's approximately 500 red-and-pink-lit windows have been closed during recent years, with dozens more planned for closure. However, that now appears unlikely to happen, since the council has already reduced the funding intended for that part of the project.

The news didn't satisfy the protesters, who said they wanted their windows back.

Many of the remaining windows were empty during the protest, showing a written message to mayor Van der Laan: "You are stealing our jobs."

Amsterdam has about 7,000 sex workers, with three quarters of them coming from less developed countries, especially Eastern Europe.

dj/rc (AP, AFP)