Plans to create a mega-brothel with hundreds of prostitutes working in one multi-storey building have come under fierce opposition from a “monster” coalition of Amsterdam locals. Six thousand posters are set to go up across the city in the Netherlands with the slogans “We love the red light district! Don’t ruin the red lights district!” as opinion polls suggest just one in five Amsterdam residents support the relocation of the prostitutes.
Opponents of the plan have argued that the red lights district is a “safe space” for sex work and to partially close it down would amount to “hiding away” the city’s prositutes.
Mayor Halsema, who has proposed the relocation, maintains that the red lights district, located near the city’s central railway station, has become a public nuisance fuelled by the 18 million visiting tourists.
Groups of young men, often drunk or stoned, flock to the district to see, and engage with, the prostitutes standing behind the infamous red-lit windows.
While both the mayor and those opposed to the relocation are united in support of legalised sex work, as well as the need to reduce the damaging effects of mass tourism, they disagree that stripping the red lights district of almost half of its prositutes is the most effective way of solving the issue.
Residents of the north and south of the city have already protested against plans to relocate the prostitutes closer to their homes, while the mayor has accused opponents of being nimbies, a reference to the phrase “not in my back yard”.
“You are not a real mayor of Amsterdam if you have not been yelled at strongly. In the end, I just have to weigh up the public interest,” she told the city’s Het Parool newspaper, denying that support for the project was crumbling.
Inspired by the imagery in the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge, Ms Halsema plans for the building to be a safe, high-quality complex, containing within it sex clubs and pornographic theatres, among other attractions.
But her plans look to be unpopular, while the scheme’s opponents appear to have wide support, including from residents’ associations, Jewish organisations, football clubs, prostitutes and property developers. Opinion polls suggest that just one in five Amsterdammers back the relocation.
Mariska Majoor, 54, a former prostitute who runs the city’s Prostitution Information Centre, which helps people working in sex industry, said she believes the mayor “cares about the fate of sex workers” but questioned the politician’s methods of protecting their wellbeing.
“If you ask [the sex workers] what they want,” Ms Majoor said, “they mention the red light district as a safe place to work, because there is a lot of social control. In an erotic centre, they would feel hidden away.”
Ms Majoor called for the funds set aside for a mega-brothel to be redirected to facilitating a “new approach to the current red light district.
Campaigners have suggested the existing red light district be treated as if it was a large-scale public event, such as a music festival, with extra police and crowd management controls to avoid nuisance.
They say that moves to make the existing area a place where “even families can enjoy a day out” should take place alongside Amsterdam’s growing debate over how to manage mass tourism.