A communiqué from the Mayor of Amsterdam to the city council made very clear the municipality is still determined to replace the well-known sex workers’ windows in the Red Light District with an “erotic center” on the city’s outskirts. Even though it would apparently take 3 to 10 years to be realised, the first images of a possible design and even detailed floor plans have already been circulated in the media. Most importantly, the letter states that for the erotic center to succeed, the sex workers’ windows in the Red Light District would have to close, which would result in the expulsion of sex workers from the area. The municipality claims that this will ultimately benefit sex workers, but sex workers overwhelmingly disagree and feel the municipality barely made an effort to actually listen to their concerns and needs, but rather encapsulated them as a ‘sector’ to be put under the analysis of ‘the market’. Even the city’s own research shows that the few people they spoke to oppose the current plans. Sex workers in the Red Light District have once more been sidelined, and don’t think the plans will benefit them at all. On the contrary, it’s likely to undermine their rights and livelihoods. Therefore, sex workers in the Red Light District and the signatories below are calling on everybody involved to stop this project now so long as it requires forcibly closing already existing window brothels.
While the municipality is pushing their plans through, we want to make the following absolutely clear:
- Sex workers active on the Wallen want to remain on the Wallen, and don’t want to be forcibly expelled from the area (130 sex workers signed a petition against the erotic center, which was presented to Mayor Halsema on December 17, 2021).
- Sex workers active on the Wallen are not being helped in any way by an erotic center that replaces windows, just as they were not helped at all by Project1012. Rather, they feel they will lose their independence and that their position will be directly undermined by its realization. Sex workers already lack enough legal, safe workspaces and window brothels are some of the few remaining places where sex workers can work as freelancers and have complete control over their clientele, services offered, and prices. If anything, sex workers feel they need more windows.
- Sex workers’ opinions were not taken into account in the decision-making process around the future of the Wallen or any erotic center, despite a half-hearted consultation process. Sex workers feel the municipality only spoke to them to be able to claim they included sex workers. The fact that the city still plans to close windows to make the erotic center viable despite sex workers’ explicit concerns makes sex workers feel even more used by the city.
- Sex workers are stigmatized by being displaced and put out of sight, instead of allowed to be part of a historical, layered and intimate neighborhood. Sex workers have been part of this neighborhood as long as people can remember and they make its history rich, unique, and beautiful.
- Sex workers will end up in unsafe, if not dangerous, situations when having to travel to one specific building on the city’s fringes, while the Wallen provides a safe, close-knit neighborhood where people look after each other. Sex work in the Wallen also keeps the local residents safe, as people and police are working in the area into the late hours.
- Sex workers will lose working opportunities, as an erotic center will likely have less windows than the Wallen (current plans indicate only 100 rooms for full-service sex work), while it is likely also more difficult to reach than the city center. The majority of sex workers who already cannot find a window in the Wallen will most likely be excluded from the erotic center as well if window workers are forced to relocate there. This will have an especially negative impact on trans sex workers, who already struggle to find a window and are excluded from the majority of legal workspaces.
- Sex workers will lose their livelihoods if the erotic center closes due to mismanagement or lack of business, which might well happen if clients don’t like the new center. It will be difficult to find a location to build an erotic center of this nature anyways, as residents will protest against it like they already have in the Eenhoorngebied.
- Sex workers are not responsible for the mass tourism promoted by the city of Amsterdam for decades, and closing the windows will not reduce the number of tourists coming to Amsterdam nor reduce the crowds or pressure on the city center. The municipality’s own research indicates that the majority of tourists would continue to visit the Wallen even if windows are closed. The city should first try to work with sex workers instead of removing them from the area, as many window workers also live in De Wallen and want to help keep the area liveable.
- Sex workers are afraid that closing the windows will destroy the authentic character of a beautiful and unique neighborhood and deprive them of a safe working environment, a close-knit community and, most importantly, a monthly income.
- Sex work is as much a form of historical heritage as the architecture that acommodates it, and should be protected and considered as such. Its designed removal from the city center would damage the workers, the community, and the city of Amsterdam. Sex work is not the same thing as trafficking and it should not be shunned by the city.
As the signatories have lost their hope in the municipality, the mayor and the local government to listen to sex workers and others expressing their worries about a future erotic center, the signatories turn to the architects, developers and construction companies:
We call on you to not collaborate in the construction of the erotic center, as it will directly undermine sex workers’ rights and livelihoods (while not solving anything in the Wallen). By participating in its construction, you are directly responsible for the negative impact on the position of sex workers currently active on the Wallen.
130 sex workers active on the Wallen
Prostitutie Informatie Centrum
Red Light United