Amsterdam wants to ban sex workers from the windows of the red light district to combat annoying tourism

Amsterdam’s world-famous red-light district could look very different in the future as the Dutch city prepares to vote on an ordinance that would permanently close brothel window curtains to more appropriately comply with the #MeToo movement and combat disruptive tourism.

The red curtains that line the brothel windows in Amsterdam’s famous DeWallen district are currently only closed when a customer is being entertained or a sex worker is absent. That would change if the local council decides to keep them permanently closed this week. The Telegraph reported.

The plan, proposed by the liberal party D66, would mean that brothel curtains would remain closed and sex workers would not be able to lure potential customers out of the window, instead customers would book appointments via a QR code on their smartphone.

Some sex workers have opposed the plan, arguing that it will hurt their business and make them less safe by preventing them from assessing potential dangers a client might pose.

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People walk near a red traffic light in the red light district of Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 10, 2022.

People walk near a red traffic light in the red light district of Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 10, 2022.
(Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

“How can I attract customers when the curtains are closed?” a sex worker named “Lucy” told The Telegraph. “They say it’s for my protection, but that’s nonsense. If someone slurs me, I slur them back. It’s not an automatic service that I negotiate. If drunk people come in, I won’t let them in.”

Politicians who advocate a new process argue that online bookings, replacing window negotiations, will eliminate disruptive tourism and change how people perceive the city.

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De Wallen, Amsterdam's red light district, is internationally renowned and one of the city's main tourist attractions.  It features legal prostitution and a number of cafes selling marijuana.

De Wallen, Amsterdam’s red light district, is internationally renowned and one of the city’s main tourist attractions. It features legal prostitution and a number of cafes selling marijuana.
(Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

“The red light district is not a lawless place,” said Ilana Rooderkerk, head of the D66 branch, about the plan. “Sex work has become a tourist attraction, accompanied by highly undesirable, demeaning behavior towards sex workers. It doesn’t do anything to improve the status of women in the MeToo era.”

In addition to the curtains in the red-light district, the measure will make other changes to tackle disruptive tourism, including banning smoking marijuana in public areas, closing bars at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m., and closing window brothels at 3 a.m. instead of 6 a.m

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General view of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, December 9, 2022. Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands.

General view of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, December 9, 2022. Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands.
(Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

“We have to get rid of this image of Amsterdam as a city where you do all the things that aren’t allowed at home, like drugs and prostitution,” said Christian Democrat Appellate Councilor Diederik Boomsma.

“We need to move beyond this jaded, faux-progressive understanding of freedom as liberation from all taboos and letting go, and return to a more mature understanding of freedom as self-determination.”

Lawmakers’ general push to clean up the red-light district has been dubbed a “stay away” campaign because it aims to discourage tourists from coming to the area to engage in lawlessness.

“Some companies are misusing Amsterdam’s image to sell it as a place of ‘unlimited opportunity,'” Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki said in a statement. “As a result, some groups of visitors perceive it as a city where everything goes. This type of tourism, as well as offers specifically aimed at these groups, is not considered desirable by the magistrate.”

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