Amsterdam sex worker-run brothel in trouble year after opening

My Red Light district windows in Amsterdam on Boomsteeg
An unfinished portion of new brothel My Red Light on Boomsteeg in Amsterdam. May 12, 2017. (Zack Newmark / NL Times)

My Red Light, the sex worker-run window brothel that opened in Amsterdam's Red Light District in May last year, is facing financial difficulties. The brothel can't find anyone to rent its rooms over day due to the municipality's strict rules on who can rent the rooms, and strict screenings on sex workers who work there, board member Marcel Heyman said on Facebook. 

The idea of a sex-worker run brothel was first floated by late mayor Eberhard van der Laan in 2015 under the name Eigen Raam [Own Window]. The intent is to encourage sex workers to take charge of this business, and to ensure that both sex workers and their clients' health and safety have top priority. This is guaranteed by a strict adherence to the rules laid out in city regulations mandating the Red Light District. 

The municipality does not allow window brothels to rent rooms to sex workers who sell their services online, referred to by Heyman as 'home workers'. According to Heyman, My Red Light only found out that it won't be able to rent its rooms to home workers a few weeks before opening. 

"The reality has now taught us that the planned income we would have generated is not compensated by the rental of windows to ladies during the day. On the contrary. There is a lot of vacancy during the daytime in the entire Red Light District and the income does not even cover the costs. We must now watch our beautiful facilities stand empty during the day." Heyman writes

Another problem, Heyman writes, is the strict requirements and screening the municipality sets on people who want to work at My Red Light. "Due to the screening requirements of the municipality for our staff, it is not possible for us to take on someone immediately. These are stricter than, for example, for a municipal councilor. A note or mention of someone's name as a witness or victim in a police file is enough to reject someone."

Heyman calls for the municipality to ease the rules on who can rent rooms in My Red Light. "The fact that the municipality finds that we can not rent to the so-called 'home workers' ensures that without finding alternative income, we have little chance of survival. This is in stark contrast to our common goal, the prevention of abuse and trafficking in the sex industry."

In Het Parool the municipality emphasizes that from the outset it was made clear that My Red Light would be treated the same as all the other window brothels in the city. "They have to keep to the rules. One of those rules is that window prostitutes are not allowed to recruit customers through advertisements."

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