New plan sees Amsterdam turn hookers into entrepreneurs
A new plan approved by Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan and the city’s aldermen will try to strip the seediness from the Dutch capital’s famed prostitution business by making sex workers more like entrepreneurs, but the plan could turn the city into a brothel owner. The city is teaming up with non-profit organisation HVO-Querido to help guide some women working in the Red Light District into more career-focused people, while also making good on its pledge to reduce abuse and exploitation in the sex industry. The project could begin as early as July 2015. “For many years, the City of Amsterdam has been committed to improving conditions in the city’s prostitution industry by bolstering the position of prostitutes and tackling abuses such as human trafficking, exploitation and poor working conditions,” the city says in a statement. The comments go on to say that the “self‐managed prostitution businesses aligns with this policy: significant progress would be made by offering a leading role to the prostitutes themselves.” The goal of the programme is that prostitutes themselves acquire knowledge to run their own business and then take “full control of the business within a reasonable period of time.” “Experienced in offering assistance to prostitutes, HVO-Querido is a foundation that is dedicated to strengthening their role as businesspeople.” Amsterdam is looking to offload five buildings it acquired as part of a deal with former prolific sex industry entrepreneur Charles Geertz. Geertz once owned dozens of red light windows in multiple buildings. He sold these to the city from 2007 to 2008 for an estimated €25 million amidst allegations he was involved in money laundering and organised crime. Amongst his former property are four buildings on Oudezijds Achterburgwal and one on Boomsteeg, all approved for sex work. “The municipality is keen to enter into discussions with a bona fide organisation looking to make a socially‐oriented, yet sound investment. Offering a total of 19 work spaces for approximately 50 prostitutes, the five available properties are all located within the ‘Prostitution Zone’ in the Red Light District,” the city says. However, if the city is not able to find an adequate partner, Amsterdam could rent windows to prostitutes itself. “However, this could lead to an undesirable conflict of interests, due to the fact that the City of Amsterdam is also always responsible for granting permits, supervision and enforcement of regulations.” The city acknowledges risks involved socially, financially and legally, specifically referencing possible conflicts of interest by being both a regulator and a proprietor in the Red Light District. Risks will be examined further, before a full proposal is sent to the entire city council.