Amsterdam’s Red Light District Wears Out Its Welcome

By Michele Clark  

amsterdam15107_wideweb__430x2860A couple weeks ago, in response to my post questioning whether or not it’s still hard out there for a pimp, some commenters claimed that the answer to the problem of trafficking was the legalization of prostitution since, after all, it was “the world’s oldest profession.”

First of all who started that rumor?  I would like to nominate the fashion industry as the world’s oldest profession, since someone had to make those fig leaf threads sported by Adam and Eve on their way out of Eden. But the question at hand is: will legalizing prostitution work?

Let’s take a look at the Netherlands where the welcome mat to publicly available sex and drugs has been out for the entire world to cross.  The fame of Amsterdam’s Red Light District was such that Thomas Cook Tours (that venerable British tour agency) offered a walking tour of the Red Light District, promising “a fascinating insight into the oldest profession in the world.”  To woo prospective visitors, Mssrs. Cook offered reduced price tickets to children under 12 years old and free passes for those under three. Following public outcry, the tour is no longer available. 

So what about that Red Light District anyway?  I have news for you, folks.  It didn’t work. Several years after lifting the ban on brothels, Amsterdam’s Mayor Job Cohen admits that, while the law was created for voluntary prostitution, “these days we see trafficking of women, exploitation and all kinds of criminal activity.”  

The majority of the women behind the windows are from foreign countries, brought to the Netherlands under false pretenses, enslaved by their pimps, and subject to acts of violence on a daily basis.  The proliferation of sex trafficking in Amsterdam has made that city’s Red Light District into an enclave of organized crime and corruption that has caused even the socially liberal Dutch to say, enough. From occupying a large enclave in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic center, the Red Light district is now being limited to two streets.  The numbers of windows are curtailed and the hours of operation are shortened.  Far from enabling safe and consenting sexual encounters to take place, the opening of brothels had the opposite effect, opening the door to heightened organized activity with a related increase in sex slavery.

Anyone still thinking that legalizing prostitution is the answer to sex trafficking ought to take a tour through Amsterdam and pay Mayor Cohen a visit. But hurry. The welcome mat is wearing thin.

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