The Netherlands May Criminalise Sex Workers for the First Time

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Regional Correspondent Europe

Dutch sex workers working without a brothel license may risk a prison sentence of up to six months. The Act Regulating Prostitution (WRP) proposes to criminalise all sex workers without licensure, including sex workers who work alone and camgirls/camboys. According to the Research and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Justice and Safety, this will affect one third of all sex workers. Parliament will vote on the law proposal before the end of the year. Most political parties have expressed their support of the law.

“Holland is moving more into criminalizing sex workers, violating their privacy rights and is moving away from Amnesty's proposal to decriminalize it and protect sex workers’ rights. This country is really going crazy,” says Felicia Anna who is a member of PROUD and a Romanian migrant sex worker on her blog about the Amsterdam Red Light District.

An increasing number of sex workers choose to work unlicensed. “It is often the only option for sex workers to work independently in a situation where cities consistently refuse to give out licenses due to stigma,” says Hella Dee from PROUD. “By working unlicensed, sex workers avoid the oppressive regulations and financially exploitative reality of the legal framework,” she continues.

“The main problem with ‘prostitution’ in Holland, is the shortage of workplaces due to the constant closures of legal workplaces (40% has been closed down already), while it's impossible to get a permit for a new workplace. But now they actually want to throw sex workers in jail for not being able to get this impossible to get permit,” writes Felicia Anna.

According to Hella Dee, unlicensed sex workers face all the issues of working within a criminalised environment, especially regarding police harassment. Sex workers report an increase in police violence and intimidation. Police officers out sex workers to landlords and non-sex work employers, leading to eviction and loss of non-sex work income. Parents are reported to social services based solely on their profession. Police officers enter sex worker homes without their permission - the proposed Act Regulation Prostitution (WRP) aims to legalise this practice - and ask personal questions about their private (sex) lives. Tax office will demand high fines based on unrealistic assumptions about the number of clients sex workers see.

PROUD considers the whole WRP as a dangerous and harmful law. The law forces sex workers to work for an operator without employee rights and legalises police raids on the homes of sex workers. “The biggest pain point is the criminalisation of sex workers without a permit. Do we really want to send prostitutes to prison?“ said Mariska Majoor, PROUD president.

PROUD calls on all Members of Parliament to speak out against the WRP. PROUD also calls on sex workers and allies to take action against this law by sending letters to Members of Parliament.