Amsterdam to make its prostitution less visible

Amsterdam to make its prostitution less visible

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Scantily clad prostitutes beckoning from behind windows — long a familiar sight in the city’s red-light district — will become rarer, city officials said Monday.

Mayor Job Cohen unveiled plans to resell buildings in the area to commercial developers and crack down on pimps and petty crime. The plan would cover both the prostitution district and the adjoining area around Central Station, the city’s gateway for most tourists.


Cohen said a move in 2000 to legalize prostitution failed to curb gangsters running Amsterdam’s sex trade.Legalization “didn’t bring us what we hoped and expected,” he said, “especially with regard to the exploitation of women in the sex industry.”

Cohen said the city hopes to complete the overhaul before the 2012 opening of a subway line.

Prostitution has been a part of Amsterdam since the first merchant seamen pulled into its harbor, and mostly has been tolerated by authorities. The open sex industry, with its movie theaters, live shows, sexual aid shops and women in windows, is part of the city’s image.

The city began auditing real estate and closing brothels and sex clubs in the area in 2003 to clamp down on money laundering. In September, officials announced a deal to buy buildings housing a third of the prostitutes’ windows.

Asked whether the city’s tourism industry would suffer if it loses its freewheeling reputation, City Councilman Lodewijk Asscher said any losses would be “short-term.”

“We know that the tourists that come here now, the rowdy Britons, aren’t always the tourists that you’d like to have in the city,” he said.

Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now runs the Prostitution Information Center, was skeptical.

She said Cohen’s claim that “if there’s less supply, there will be less demand” for prostitution was wrong, and predicted that closing brothels would merely increase the number of streetwalkers.

Majoor doubted that a red-light district free of criminality and full of thriving businesses was realistic. “This is definitely not going to turn into some wonderful Walt Disney story.”


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