After having written here and there on drugs-prejudice, it might be interesting do so on the other taboo, prostitution.
Amsterdam has a reputation of having a famous red light district, called “de Wallen”. It’s not alone btw, i.e. Hamburg (Germany) has it’s famous Reeperbahn. The district has it’s clubs of course and about 150 rooms that are rented to prostitutes by the hour, full service. Most of the prostitution there is what is called “window prostitution”; the women are sitting behind red or purple lit windows, erm, showing the merchandise (please forgive me for the choice of words). “de Wallen” for whatever it’s worth is a huge tourist magnet but also a tad law-less. Of course the entrepeneurs there have a good reason to keep things peaceful and quiet there, but let’s say they do it their own way, to the great dismay of the city.
Prostitution has been legalized in this country, bound to licenses and normal business laws like proper wages, tax paying etc, and that has given the law a bit more grip on things (just a bit, as a lot went underground of course, where before legalization it was tolerated).
The by far biggest property owner of “rooms” on “de Wallen”, Charles Geerts, who owned about 30% of the rooms, was driven into a corner by the city and finally agreed today to sell his property to the city of Amsterdam, who have indicated they will “turn the property into housing again” and played down the magnet function by saying it only attracted “Drunk vandalizing Brits on cheap flights” who were not very welcome anyway. Geerts is a very careful (and loaded) man. He was very careful never to interfere in the “trade”, he just provided the property and cleaning, although he has been accused of money laundering and contacts with serious criminals.
What was the most interesting response was what of the chairwoman of the prostitution-union (yes, that union does exist, good for them!). She basically said it would worsen the situation for the prostitutes, driving more of them into illegality again. On “de Wallen”, at least they could be reached and taken care of a bit. She also said that she was very anxious to hear what the city would do to stop pimps (she called them extortioners) as opposed to property owners.
I have no sympathy for Geerts, who btw got about $35 million out of the deal. He was servicing the system big time and got rich doing so, but at least the women had a decent indoor place and were, literally and figuratively, visible. I do think she has a good point.