Restricting Amsterdam red light district

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Amsterdam councillor Lodewijk Asscher has launched a plan to raise the minimum age of prostitutes from 18 to 23. Mr Asscher wants to clean up Amsterdam's Red Light district and is proposing a whole raft of measures.

In addition to raising the minimum age, he also wants the Red Light district in the Wallen area to close down between 04:00 and 08:00 in the morning.

One of the councillor's aims is to strengthen the position of the women who work in the sex industry.

He told NOS public radio, "We recently saw the escape of Saban B., a people trafficker who used extreme violence to pressure very young girls who were far from home into prostitution in the Wallen area. An 18-year-old girl from Bulgaria, for example, is less able to fend for herself than a woman who is older.

Mayor Cohen called for a rise in the minimum age because it is very hard work, both mentally and physically. We want women who opt for that work to be able to hold their own as best they can. We have found that most victims of people trafficking are between 18 and 23.

The women should possess a valid ID, and they should register with a local office which is manned by both the Chamber of Commerce and the Municipal Health Service. Specialised staff there will be able to spot signs of coercion, or whether they are working of their own volition. And whether they have the mental capacities you may expect from an adult."

Many prostitutes working in Amsterdam originate from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Closing the brothels after four in the morning will also help the women, Mr Asscher claims. "Between four and eight, only the worst drunks and creeps are about. Most women prefer not to work then, and the most vulnerable women are forced to offer themselves during those hours."

Speaking to Dutch daily De Telegraaf, the councillor denied that he wants to turn Amsterdam into a prudish bourgeois paradise. "Look, Amsterdam is a metropolis and prostitution is part of that. There is nothing against prostitution if the women are doing it of their own free will. But there are many of examples where that is not the case. Imagine it's your mother or your sister working as a prostitute."

Mr Asscher's proposal will probably be presented to the city council after the 3 March municipal elections, so the plan is in the hands of the voters.