Protesting against new regulations aimed at controlling the red light district, sex workers in Amsterdam have taken to the streets

Sex workers in Amsterdam are claiming that the city’s plans to control the red light district are unfairly targeting them.

The district, known as De Wallen, features around 300 windows where sex workers can offer their services, and is named after the red neon lights that illuminate it.

However, the district’s famous prostitution windows will now close earlier, and may even be relocated to another part of the city.

Supporters of the reforms claim they will rebrand Amsterdam’s image and reduce crime and nuisance behavior in the area.

But critics argue that the measures will only increase stigma and use sex workers as a scapegoat for a larger issue: the problems caused by mass tourism in the city.

The smoking of marijuana will be banned according to an announcement made by the municipality last month. Additionally, starting from April 1, sex work establishments will be required to close at 3 a.m, three hours earlier than before.

These modifications are being discussed in the context of relocating sex workers to a large “erotic center” situated outside of the city center.

“We really don’t agree with the solutions that they are offering, that they’re imposing. They’re not even negotiating with the sex workers’ organizations,” sex worker Sabrina Sanchez told the Agence France-Press on Thursday.

On Thursday, Sanchez joined a group of protestors in the Netherlands’ most populous city. Several demonstrators, including Sanchez, held up signs with slogans like “Save the Red Light,” and disrupted a city council meeting where officials were discussing plans to relocate sex workers to another area.

In addition, they presented a petition signed by 266 sex workers to Mayor Femke Halsema, requesting an increase in police presence in the area rather than reduced operating hours and relocation.

Felicia Anna, the chairperson of Red Light United, a union for sex workers in the district who used to work in the industry herself, expressed concerns that the changes to operating hours could have a severe impact on sex workers’ income and could make it difficult for many to afford basic expenses.

“Most of the workers start to work after 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning, when the bars start to close down,” Anna told CNN. “Now you have maybe two hours to make any money, which is not enough.”

As the leader of the Prostitution Information Centre, an organization that offers education and information about sex work, Violet stated that the reduced operating hours would disproportionately affect transgender individuals, as many clients who seek transgender sex workers tend to arrive during the later hours.

Additionally, Violet cautioned that the earlier closing time could jeopardize the safety of sex workers.

“If you’re traveling home at 3 o’clock in the morning, especially if everything is closed, then that leaves you, as a sex worker, in greater vulnerability,” she said.

In January 2020, the city’s government banned group tours to the district, citing abusive behavior, unwanted photography and other disruptions.