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Wednesday 26 November  
Amsterdam's red light district
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

"There is no such thing as a happy hooker"

Published on : 25 June 2010 - 7:01pm | By Martijn van Tol (Photo: Wikipedia)
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The Dutch Christian Democrats believe forced prostitution is soaring in the Netherlands, which is why the party wants to change current prostitution legislation. However, sex workers’ interest groups say the proposed measures will prove counterproductive and will harm prostitutes rather than their violent pimps.

The legal ban on brothels was scrapped in the Netherlands in 2001. From that moment on, prostitution was regarded as a regular profession, like cab driver or dentist. Nearly 10 years later, the Christian Democrat CDA says ‘terrible things’ are happening in prostitution. The party believes most paid sex is taking place under threat of violence.

Good news
The CDA wants to introduce compulsory registration as well as an interview with a council official to determine whether an aspiring prostitute will be plying her trade voluntarily. If her application is approved, she will be issued a permit and an identity card. Clients visiting a prostitute who cannot show an identity card would be punishable by law. The CDA wants the minimum age raised from 18 to 21, and argues for the introduction of a stricter licensing policy for brothel owners. The CDA believes its measures would expose abuse, which would be good news for sex workers.

Not so, says Marieke Ridder, who works for the SOA/HIV Nederland (STD/HIV Netherlands) foundation. Her job is to promote safer and healthier working conditions for prostitutes. Ms Ridder is convinced that the registration proposed by the CDA is unnecessary as all legal prostitutes are already registered with the tax department and the chambers of commerce. Ms Ridder says the measures are primarily geared toward sanctions and enforcement, which would be exactly the wrong approach.

Trust
Ms Ridder says it will not be easy to persuade women to admit to being forced to have sex. Effective measures can only be taken when women are willing to file charges. She says only long-term relationships based on trust will achieve this, not a 20-minute interview with a council official.It is very difficult to make an estimate of how many of the 20,000 to 30,000 women in prostitution are being forced to have sex. The wildly varying estimates are indicative of the elusiveness of the world of paid sex. However, all parties agree there is a serious problem.

Customers
So what is the right way of adressing the issue? Marieke Ridder argues for enlisting the aid of the prostitutes’ clients. To illegal prostitutes, they are often their only contact with the outside world. They can serve as a warning system, for instance when a woman is crying, or covered in bruises. There is a hotline customers can call anonymously to pass information on to the police.

Ms de Ridder says the Netherlands does not have a clear-cut prostitution policy. The issues of prostitution and people trafficking have become inextricably mixed, whereas a victim of people trafficking can just as easily end up as an illegal worker at an asparagus farm. The resulting policy confusion explains why a criminal activity like people trafficking is currently being fought via a legal sector like prostitution.

Voluntary sex
Opinions on prostitution remain strongly divided in the Netherlands. Some people regard the profession as a voluntary choice in which women, or men, can operate as free entrepreneurs. Others regard the women in prostitution primarily as victims. A representative of the latter category is Bulgarian journalist Maria Genova, who wrote a book on a woman who for twelve years was forced by her husband to have paid sex. Not surprisingly, she supports the CDA’s plans.

'All those women were forced in one way or another, not just by pimps, but for instance also by their financial situation. I believe they also have a past marred by incest, or they were beaten, or raised without love. If you ask a ten-year-old girl what she wants to be when she grows up, nobody will tell you: “I want to be a prostitute” and that says enough about these so-called ‘happy hookers’.” To Maria Genova, there is no such thing as a happy prostitute.

 

Discussion

clay4522 12 July 2011 - 3:23am

There is so many hookers in the area. I am not sure if is good or not. We have to make a lot of changes in the future.
IT support Toronto

Robert1856 20 September 2010 - 2:04pm / LONDON , GB

I suspect that is probably right !
We must not be hastily pre-judgemental about the poor hooker/tart/tom !
Sometimes they are coerced into it !

Brothels & their pimps keep them in a vicious circle !

They erode privacy of sex, behaviour, relationships & life !
Right to privacy has the obligations entailed, too !

hosep 4 August 2010 - 9:50pm / syria

it is a sham on netherland to allow prostitution

jasmin 28 June 2010 - 12:46pm / India

Exactly, no parent wants their children to become prostitutes or pimps, and no woman wants to be one. Shame on those who support their disrespect for women as the choice of the women!

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