Amsterdam’s First Female Mayor Wants Tourists To Respect The City’s Sex Workers
By Sharelle Burt
The first female mayor of Amsterdam is already making moves to protect sex workers in the city’s infamous Red Light District against tourists, specifically drunk ones.
Mayor Femke Halsema is working to stop the constant harassment in the sex-driven section of the city. Filled with bars and clubs, visitors inebriated in public is common, and workers suffer from it. With over 370 windows filled with women and men looking to work at 86 brothels, a lot of late night traction takes place. “Too often now we see vulnerable foreign women behind windows being booed by hordes of drunken tourists,” Halsema said. “Our inner city is one of the oldest in Europe with an enormous culture historical significance, which is obviously deteriorating. We would like tourists to see the cultural value.”
Keeping the workers safe for the female mayor, the first in the city’s 700-year history, Halsema plans to spread brothels out to other areas. With over 50,000 residents and 18 million visitors per year, highlighting other areas will help to ease up congestion and rebuild on historic central zones. Many locals expressed concerns about the rise in visitor numbers, pointing out that the city needs to remain in livable conditions.
Amsterdammers got support from the 52-year-old mayor to cancel plans allowing a canal with commercial boats just a few meters away from Anne Frank’s house, another popular tourist spot. “What’s of great importance to the city is that Amsterdam is a place where people live,” Halsema said. “This is not a frozen tourist spot where life becomes difficult. We need to think about what kind of tourists we want to attract, as we shouldn’t have any illusion that the number of tourists in the city will go down. It will keep on rising.”
Tolerance is another main focus for Mayor Halsema. While prostitution is legal in the city, it is only tolerated if there is consent, a key word in today’s culture. Tolerance became a major issue after a recent attack of a drag queen. “At times Amsterdam has been called too open,” Halsema said. “I think we should currently worry more about whether we are open enough.” She recently raised eyebrows after she publicly announced that she wouldn’t ban burqas, a long, loose-fitting garment primarily worn by Muslim women, from public transportation, schools, and government buildings.