Demonstrators hold placards during a parade through Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 19 October 2023. Red Light District residents, entrepreneurs and sex workers staged a protest against the move of the window brothels to an erotic center elsewhere in the city. The erotic center should become a workplace for about a hundred sex workers in the North or South districts of Amsterdam This would replace some of the window brothels in the Red Light District. EPA-EFE/ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN


Amsterdam sex workers protest against planned relocation of red-light district


Sex workers in Amsterdam are protesting against the planned relocation of the city’s famous red-light district to an out-of-town “erotic centre”.

Around 30 groups from across the city united in a “monster coalition” in opposition to the plan. They would rather see the money for the relocation used to improve the red-light district, called “de wallen”.

Representatives took to the streets to demonstrate against proposals for the erotic centre chanting: “Don’t save us, save our windows,” and “If sex workers are not to blame then why are we being punished?”

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition opposing the plans. They advocate for improved crowd control in the area and increased police patrols, particularly at night.

The city council has earmarked three possible sites for the centre, which would have 100 rooms for sex workers. The final choice is set to be made at the end of 2023, after which municipality officials will take a vote.

Many sex workers think the new location might turn out less safe and fear a rise in criminality such as street robbery as the proposed locations are in more remote areas.

Most clients also pay in cash and the workers prefer not to walk around with a lot of money about their person.

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema wants to improve the image of the Dutch capital, which is often referred to as “sin city”.

She said the red-light district was attracting too many sex tourists while, at the same time, it is reeling under increasing crime and drug-related violence.

As a solution, Halsema wants to relocate the red-light district to a new erotic centre. That is not only to the dismay of the prostitutes but also to the residents of the areas where the centre could be located.

Opponents also point out that people living in and around the iconic Amsterdam red-light district knew about it when they chose to live there, while a new erotic centre would be imposed on the residents wherever it is moved to.

Among those against the plan is the European Medicines Agency as two of the proposed sites are near its new headquarters south of Amsterdam.

The “monster coalition” is made up of a number of different opponents ranging from hoteliers to a football team, to the Liberal Jewish Congregation and a developer, among others.

“An erotic centre is undesirable, regardless of location,” reads the manifesto drafted by the group. “It is an untactical solution to a mostly misunderstood problem.

“After all, it is not the sex workers, the businesses or the residents of the red-light district that have changed rapidly in recent years … it is the area and its visitors that have undergone a huge transition.”

They went on to highlight what they said was the historic and cultural value of the area.

Plans to move the red-light district out of its current location are not new. In 2007 the city council tried the same based on the fight against human traffickers and abuse in the sector.