Utrecht closing street prostitution zone; Concerns for sex workers' safety
Utrecht's street prostitution zone is closing at midnight. From 00:01 a.m. on Thursday, sex workers will no longer work on Europalaan. People involved are concerned that with the street prostitution zone, often referred to as the 'Tippelzone' or 'De Baan', sex workers in Utrecht are also losing their safety.
"It makes me sad that the Tippelzone is closing," Carmen Kleingeris, one of the founders of HAP - a safe living room project on Europalaan where sex workers could go for a safe place to chat, be themselves, or get medical advice - said to RTV Utrecht. "You're tearing down the whole idea of what we've just tried to realize. That is that prostitution is normal. You don't have to do it, but let other people live their lives and give them the space to enjoy it safely. Politicians are now actually saying by closing the tolerance zone: 'sex workers do not belong'. Customers that agree with this mentality feel legitimized, 'so I can rape them too, so I can...' You legitimize an attitude."
Utrecht decided to close the Tippelzone in 2018 and replace it with a residential neighborhood. Closure date was set for 1 July 2021, with the intention of finding a new area for the street prostitution zone. But that never happened. Sex workers who wanted to switch careers got help from the municipality to do so. The others now have to find a different place to work.
Tiny Bierbooms, the doctor connected to HAP, is worried about what this will mean for the sex workers. "Prostitution remains of course and if you close the zone, it disappears out of sight. That means there are no health checks. The good thing about the living project on Europalaan was safety. I am concerned that this is now disappearing," she said to RTV Utrecht.
HAP social worker Nienke de Jong agrees. "My primary reaction to closing the Tippelzone is that it is not good in terms of protection and safety," she said to the broadcaster. In addition, the living room in the Tippelzone provided the women with a place where they can be themselves between working and there is also a lightness. They can get a cup of coffee and some commiseration. It is difficult work."