A newspaper investigation has exposed the appalling conditions faced by women in Amsterdam’s red light district.
The Netherlands legalised prostitution in 2000 and campaigners have often warned of the dangers that prostitutes face from pimps and human traffickers.
The Mail on Sunday’s investigation, titled ‘Amsterdam to call time on myth of a ‘happy hooker’’, spoke to a number of women who were placed into prostitution against their will.
‘Piece of meat’
One woman, who was forced to stand in a brothel window for men to ‘hire’, told the newspaper: “We are being sold just like something in a shop.”
Angelica, who worked in the district for over five years, told the newspaper how she was lured into prostitution when she was just 17.
She explained that she was ‘sold on’ to a pimp in Amsterdam and used “like a piece of meat”.
“When I saw the brothels with all the girls in the windows, I cried. I cried very hard because they looked horrible, and I knew that was what was coming to me.”
Angelica was abused, threatened, and forced to have an abortion.
“Pimps would tell me it’s legal, that they can do what they want to me because the police are on their side and not mine.”
“The problem is that once I was in that brothel, everybody just walked past smiling and waving, or glaring and laughing, including some of the police, because everything was perfectly legal”, she added.
Angelica was eventually helped to leave prostitution by a support agency.
Dutch MP Gert-Jan Segers, who is leader of the Christian Union party, said: “The red light district is a dark place. It’s chilling, it’s humiliating – it makes me cry.”
He added that it has long been “just accepted”, but added “the reality is that it’s just commercialised rape”.
A new law is expected to be introduced in the Netherlands next year which will make it an offence for people to have sex with a prostitute that they know – or suspect – has been trafficked. It will be punishable by up to four years in prison.
Segers said he hopes the new law “will be a clear warning that if you cross that line you will be prosecuted, including tourists”.
In the UK, the number of sex assaults have reportedly increased significantly in an area of Leeds that was designated a ‘prostitution zone’ in 2014.
Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP, said the experiment was “doomed from the start”.
She said the women “are even more vulnerable because by giving them a designated area it risks normalising prostitution and everything that comes with it”.
A former Leeds prostitute, Fiona Broadfoot, added: “This so-called safe zone is not safe. The act of prostitution is not safe.”