Ever since the 1300s the city of Amsterdam has been a safe home to women who wanted to sell their sexual services. Amsterdam became a city of immigrants from all over the world, in which widespread religious and political intolerance in their countries of origin gave way to Dutch tolerance. It must be said that this “Dutch” tolerance was only found in the main ports of the country: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (still Dutch at the time). Amsterdam became – and still is – a melting pot of cultures. The cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s made Amsterdam the “magical centre” of Europe. Young people wanted to change the world, and up to a point they succeeded in Amsterdam. In 1830 prostitution became legal in The Netherlands, and in 1988 it became a legal profession. This means that prostitutes in The Netherlands have to submit income tax declarations and pay taxes. However, for many of them it’s still quite difficult to get a mortgage. Until 1980 a law, dating from 1911, forbade taking profit from prostitution. In Amsterdam it was called the “Pimp Law”. The law was meant to protect prostitutes against their pimps, but these pimps could only be prosecuted if a prostitute filed a complaint against them. In practice the law was only applied as a last resort in cases of domestic violence, and the prostitutes would usually withdraw their complaints after their pimps had spent a night in a police cell. The main effect of the 1911 law was that many pimps married their prostitutes, and even got rid of other girls that were working for them, just to be on the safe side. Nowadays the whores of Amsterdam are called “sex workers”. In the city they are respected and their rights are protected. Their field of work is called the “sex industry”, and the authorities are working hard to make sure that sex workers aren’t exploited. In 2007 a monument was erected in the Red Light District, presenting a prostitute waiting for a customer. Although the Red Light District is the most notorious and infamous area of the city, it also is the safest area, as it is well controlled by the police and private bodyguards. But it wasn’t always that way…
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Café Valhalla – Stories from the Red Light District
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