Walking around the Red Light district in Amsterdam I was shocked. Not shocked by the scantily-clad women, the seedy back streets or the men lining up for their evening entertainment but shocked because it wasn’t anything like that at all!
It was so….normal.
There were couples taking an evening stroll, families walking along the canal, a Catholic church and even a children’s playgroup and the city is working hard with Project 1012 to bring other businesses to the area. The project was founded in 2007 with the aim of changing the face of the area by confining the ‘district’ to just two main streets. But the downside of this is that many windows have closed for business forcing the sex workers to work on the outskirts of the city which aren’t as safely policed.
Prostitution was legalised in 2000 in Amsterdam to make the industry as safe as possible. On average the girls have ten clients a night and they can choose which customers they wish to take. An alarm connects them straight to the police who are on duty just minutes away and can easily sort out a dispute or bad paying customer. The work appears to be seasonal with some girls leaving their home in European countries to work here for six months before returning with their small-made fortune.
The more I learnt the less seedy it all sounded. Prostitution here actually seemed like a legitimate business with the girls all registering for self-employed status and were even in the same tax bracket as the informative tour guide who appeared to be born for their role and loved the area so much she even lived here.
As we meandered through the back streets, I forgot where I was and glanced in the nearby window. Staring back at me was a stunning bosom brunette wearing just her underwear and wiggling her hips. The first I had seen on our tour. Just a few streets away was a condomory which offered personalised fittings, just yards from the neon lights of the €2 peep show for a two minute performance. Live sex acts take place each night at Moulin Rouge for €25 or Casa Rosso for a steeper price of €40 with more ‘rotating’ acts.
Take out the neon flashing lights, the bars with the innuendo names and the occasional girl looking back at you through a window and the Red Light District is just like any other part of Amsterdam. (Until midnight anyway!)