Women working as prostitutes in the Netherlands should be at least 21 years of age, caretaker Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has decided. The minister, a Christian Democrat, has proposed raising the legal prostitution age from the earlier threshold of 18.
His Christian Union colleague, caretaker Youth and Family Minister André Rouvoet had earlier signalled a similar desire for a higher minimum age for prostitutes. In a debate in the Lower House the populist right-wing Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, had asked for such an age rise. MPs said they want better protection for young girls against so-called loverboys, young pimps who win a girl's confidence and then force her into prostitution. It is expected that a majority in the Lower House will accept Minister Hirsch Ballin's proposal.
Brothel owners in The Hague earlier took the initiative to raise the age to 21 in an attempt to eradicate exploitation by pimps and loverboys. The Amsterdam council, too, said it favoured a higher minimum age.
The Dutch caretaker cabinet is working on a set of measures to strengthen prostitution controls. There will be more identity checks to prevent under-21s to prostitute themselves illegally. Those in favour say that older women are more independent and better able to fend off unruly clients or pushy pimps. They would also be harder for traffickers to recruit.
The Dutch ban on brothels was lifted ten years ago. The exploitation of prostitution facilities is no longer illegal, it is seen as a legal source of income.
By being brought within the rule of law, brothel owners have to pay income taxes, and they have to treat prostitutes like regular employees or freelances.
It is estimated there are some 20,000 to 30,000 fulltime prostitutes, half of them foreign, in the Netherlands (population 16.5 million).
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