Sex workers protest in Amsterdam for better laws

Sex workers from dozens of countries marched through Amsterdam on Tuesday to protest for better legislation for their profession. Worldwide there is not enough attention for the safety of sex workers, said Proud, the Dutch association for sex workers and the organizer of the march, NOS and Het Parool report.

Many sex workers from all over the world came to Amsterdam in connection with the global AIDS conference AIDS2018, which started in Amsterdam on Monday. "It is therefore the ideal opportunity to together call for attention for our sector", Velvet, who works for Proud and escort service Stoute Vrouw, said to Het Parool. Dutch sex workers face less violence than their colleagues in Africa, but in the Netherlands too they find it difficult to do their work, she said. "That's because of unfair regulations. The Netherlands is going badly wrong."

Proud is particularly critical about the Rutte III government's plans for sex workers. The government wants to make al types of sex work, including escorts and self-employed prostitutes, subject to a permit and act harshly against people who earn money from sex workers. But that will make sex work even more dangerous, because the work is driven into illegality, Yvette Luhrs, director at Proud, said to NOS.

She is worried about the permits in particular. "You do not have to do a course or something, you only have to register." That does not help against exploitation, Luhrs believes. "If an exploiter says to a woman 'you must apply for such a permit, you will behave', she will do that." The permits will also mean that independent sex workers' information will become public, Luhrs said. And sex workers don't want that, because their profession carries a stigma. "Do you know how difficult it is to get a house or open a business account."

According to Luhrs, sex workers will therefore work illegally if there is a permit obligation. "And if there is abuse, those 'illegal' sex workers will not dare to go to the police, because then they will lose their jobs." According to Proud, the government also plans to ban pimps, which could criminalize sex workers' children, partners and business relations.

The permit obligation is meant to protect people in the sex industry against abuses, the Ministry of Justice and security said to NOS in a reaction. What the permit obligation will look like exactly, is not yet clear. And the pimping ban is more nuanced. "It is only punishable if the behavior touches the core of illegal prostitution. It is really about helping illegal prostitution for profit," a spokesperson said.

Proud thinks it is important that policy makers not talk about, but to sex workers when it comes to making laws and regulations that affect their work. According to the Justice Ministry, there is already a lot of cooperation with advocates. "We also encourage municipalities to make policy together with sex workers and other stakeholders."