DutchAmsterdam.nl — Amsterdam’s world famous Red Light District should be closed for prostitution between 4 am to 8 am, an Amsterdam alderman says.
In addition, the minimum age for prostitutes must be raised from 18 to 23 years, says Deputy Mayor Lodewijk Asscher, responsible for Finance, Economic Affairs, Education.
According to Asscher such drastic measures are necessary in order to combat the exploitation of young women by pimps and human traffickers.
“At 18 years of age girls from Bulgaria, Romania or Hungary are extremely vulnerable,” Asscher explained in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “They are brought here, but they cannot withstand the pressure. A woman of 23 is more mature and more resilient.”
Referring to a fugitive people trafficker, who escaped during family leave from a Dutch prison last September, Asscher said, “Saban Baran was also active in the Wallen [Red Light District]. But he is not alone. Others are also pressuring women into prostitution by force.”
Baran has been described in press reports as a violent criminal who forced at least 100 women into prostitution. De Telegraaf called him a ‘savage animal’ who forced women to work up to twelve hours a day, took all their income, and enforced his iron rule with baseball bats. Reportedly he also branded some womens’ breasts with his initials.
Last December an Amsterdam court sentenced a gang of pimps and loverboys to prison for up to six years after the criminals were convicted for forcing more than 20 women into prostitution. The men initially began relationships with their victims, some of whom were contacted via online dating websites. Once they had gained trust by plying them with gifts and attention they forced the women into prostitution.
While Asscher’s emphasis is on raising the minimum age of prostitutes, he believes that prohibiting prostitution in the Red Light District between the early morning hours of four and eight will also help.
“At that time only the worst drunks and creeps are walking around,” he explained in an interview with Radio 1. “Women are reluctant to work then, so only the most vulnerable women are deployed.”
Asscher thinks it should be mandatory for all prostitutes to be registered with the Chamber of Commerce. When they identify themselves they will prove to be at least 23 years of age, and are able to speak Dutch or at least English, French or Spanish.
The proposed measures represent another step in the implementation of Project 1012, designed to clean up downtown Amsterdam — in part by combating organized crime in the Red Light District.
Asscher insists he is not pursuing the ‘frumpication’ of Amsterdam — as charged by a growing number of Amsterdammers who speak out against his party’s penchant for coming up with more and more rules and regulations.
“Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city and prostitution is part of it. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as it happens by choice,” he says. “Unfortunately we see many examples where that is not the case. Just imagine if it were your mother or sister who worked there.”
Whether Asscher’s plans will be turned into law depends on how the municipal elections, in March, will work out for his party, PVDA.
Asscher believes there is not enough time left to table his proposals to the current city council.
A spokesman for the collaborative organization of window operators — businesses that rent rooms to prostitutes labels the proposal as “Asscher’s election gimmick.” By limiting their business hours you hit the ladies in their wallets, he says.
“Amsterdam is a world city with a 24-hour economy,” the unnamed spokesman told local daily Het Parool. “Employees of steel mills also work 24 hours a day, as do journalists.”
Social workers and various interest organizations also criticize Asscher’s plans. They warn of the possible consequences.
“By raising the minimum age it is likely that an underground circuit arises,” Metje Blaak says. “That victimizes victims of human trafficking even more.”
Blaak — spokeswoman for De Rode Draad (The Red Thread), an organization that advocates the rights of prostitutes and other sex workers — also is against closing the Red Light District for business during certain hours, saying that doing so affects the women’s’income.
She also foresees problems with the rent. “The women pay rent per half day, so will the rent be lowered?”
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