Netherlands: Bonus points for prostitutes

(translated from the original Dutch)

Eindhoven [a city in the Netherlands-PT] wants to tackle prostitution and called in the help of designers. This provides for some unorthodox ideas.


Prostitutes who honor their agreements with aid workers and participate in workshops, for example, get credit points. Then they can buy stuff via the city.

It is one of the proposals of the city of Eindhoven is considering to tackle prostitution. The city wants to provide training to women and in that way get them out of prostitution.

The plans do not come from officials, but from designers. Eindhoven wants to play a leading role in the field of design. “Design goes”, according to the city,  “beyond the design of a vase or chair. Also social problems can be tackled through design”, believes alderman Marriette Mittendorff (CDA).

“You do not think immediately to design when you think of a prostitution zone. Someone on the board thought we would give little whores nice clothes. But actually design means nothing other than that you bring things back to their essence and begin tfrom there to give form”, explained Mittendorff. Designers, according to her, are in a better position to think from the perspective of the prostitutes themselves and to ignore predudicial processes at cityhall.

[in the Netherlands it is still common for the press to use the term hoer/whore, in this case the term I translated was hoertjes. In Dutch adding tjes/jes to the end of a word is a way of making it cute, small or undermining its status. For example mannetje is sometimes used to describe a “little man or boy”, it can be both sweet or derogatory -PT]

The coalition party of the CDA, PvdA and SP don’t believe that the lives of street prostitutes has been greatly improved on the city controlled zone. “The ladies have passes, it looks clean and care is good, but this is not the way it should be” says Mittendorf. “As a city we should not be creating street prostitution. These women are all addicted. But if you close the zone you just move the problem. “

The city therefore called on the help of the Eindhoven Design Academy and the Cologne International School of Design. The students sought contact with prostitutes, for example by shopping with them. Students from the Design Academy suggested, among other things, to create a mobile zone, so that the problems are not concentrated in one place. Others suggested bringing prostitution back to the centre of the city and society for example in a parking garage.

Eindhoven eventually committed to a plan from Cologne with the name ‘Vitality’. Coaches will help prostitutes to bring more structure in their lives. Through the point system, they are rewarded for participating in activities. For example, there are workshops where women are able to learn a variety of skills. The municipality will also provide a location where they can meet each other. Helping to maintain the meeting space means earning extra points. For those who want it they can get help finding other work.

The Red Thread, representative organization for prostitutes, is enthusiastic about the plan. Spokeswoman Metje Blaak: “what a good idea, don’t give addicted prostitutes money, but points.” She recommends that the prostitutes be guided in the direction of “exciting professions.” “Often ex-prostitutes miss the adrenaline. Make sure they have work where they need to perform, but in a healthy way.”

Tuesday, the Commission on Youth and Family will discuss the details of this approach. The alderman hopes to begin next month. In June 2011 she wants to close the Zone.


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