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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Amsterdam plans to move ‘red light district’

Residents and sex workers alike have opposed plans to develop a purpose-built ‘Erotic Center’ in the Dutch city

Officials in Amsterdam have revealed plans to relocate its infamous ‘red light district’ to an ‘Erotic Center’ in the city’s south as part of a proposal intended to rid the area of its debauched image and reduce the number of tourists and crimes in the area.

Mayor Femke Halsema said on Monday that Europa Boulevard had been identified as “the most suitable location for the new Erotic Center.” Halsema has long been a vocal critic of the historic red light district, the largest of which is known locally as De Wallen, where sex workers stand in canalside, neon-lit windows awaiting customers.

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“This choice will be now presented to the city council early next year,” Halsema said in a statement, adding that it is expected to take seven years for the center to open.

Europa Boulevard, close to Amsterdam’s business district, was one of three sites proposed for the Erotic Center, which is to have 100 rooms for sex workers. Prostitution is legal in the Dutch constitutional capital, but only in specific locations and with a permit. It remains unclear how many sex workers operate in the city, but the red light district currently has about 250 active windows, local media reports say.

“Windows of the Erotic Center will only be located inside the building,” the statement said. “In this way we want to combat sightseeing tourism and keep disruptive groups away.”

The move, which comes amid efforts to transform Amsterdam’s image as a ‘party capital’ of Europe, has been criticized by sex workers – as well as by residents and businesses close to the proposed Erotic Center.

“It’s mainly about combating the crowds in De Wallen, but that is not the sex workers’ fault so I don’t see why we should be punished for it,” an unnamed prostitute said, according to The Guardian in October. She added that Halsema’s plans amount to “one big gentrification project.”

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The European Medicines Agency has also opposed the move. The choice of the site places the center close to its headquarters, where it said its staff could be at risk when working late at night. Meanwhile, tens of thousands have signed a petition against the transfer and instead called for greater police activity in De Wallen.

Amsterdam also recently launched a ‘stay away’ campaign to discourage tourism, mainly targeting British men aged 18-35.