A prostitution visitor group in Amsterdam is helping authorities find instances of people trafficking and forced prostitution. The group organiser, independent researcher Paul Hulshof, told daily Het Parool that the online panel which he set up revealed that many prostitutes' clients are unaware of how to report abuse they may have observed.
Half of the clients of Amsterdam's sex industry are foreign and hence unfamiliar with local Dutch initiatives like Report Crime Anonymously, which is a phone line where anonymous reports of abuse are accepted. People who are visiting prostitutes are unlikely to step into the police office on their way back home to report their suspicions. The anonymous phone service could be useful here. "These people can be an important source of information," Mr Hulshof said. "It is also in clients' interest to minimise abuse in the sex industry.
As a result of the client panel's feedback the Amsterdam City Council is putting up posters in Dutch and English to alert visitors to the anonymous crime reporting line. The panel is an initiative of Amsterdam's local government, which is aware that the red light zone is a tourist attraction, but insists that it should be "clean". Critics say that the municipality's policy of closing down window prostitution in the city centre will only force the trade underground, having the adverse effect of widening the scope for abuse and exploitation.
The 17 consumer panel members were recruited via Dutch websites like hookers.nl and ignatzmice.com, where people who visit prostitutes share their experiences, warn against hoaxes and make recommendations. Like the contributors on such websites, the panel members retain their anonymity. Panel co-ordinator Paul Hulshof admits that 17 is too small a number for the panel to be truly representative of the punters, although he is satisfied with results so far.
Mr Hulshof did research on Amsterdam's window prostitution and reported his findings in 2008
Report Crime Anonymously has a website
Forced prostitution is illegal (video, click "English" below)
Header graphic from Report Crime Anonymously