Netherlands to test prostitutes' linguistic abilities

The city of Amsterdam, known for its street-level window displays of men and women proffering sexual services, will soon introduce a series of new rules to prevent abuse at the hands of the owners of brothels where they are employed. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and considered a legitimate sector of the economy, which indeed attracts sex tourists to the freewheeling capital city. The new municipal rules would introduce a language test so as to establish whether or not prostitutes are able to support themselves by their trade, while they would also ban working double shifts. The new rules will take effect on January 1, 2013.

On June 15, Amsterdam's city council published its new policies on prostitution that will remain in effect through 2017. According to local media, the council had decided to "put more responsibility on the shoulders of the owners of brothels".  Next year, brothel owners must present a plan of business operations that include safeguard for prostitute's working conditions. Brothel owners must also put into effect measures to prevent what is regarded as unsafe sex, while also keeping records to show that they are complying with the double-shift ban for prostitutes. The new rules require that owners must be present at their locations during business hours.

Amsterdam seeks to extend the care to escorts the care afforded to prostitutes, as well as freelance prostitutes who work from their home. The city council says that it takes a dim view of forced prostitution and exploitation, as well as human trafficking. These will be harshly dealt with. “Prostitution is a vulnerable profession,” Mayor Eberhard van der Laan reportedly said. “It often involves an unequal power relationship between owners and prostitutes. We need to change that power relationship.”

Should a brothel owner fail to obey one or more of the new rules, the brothel may be temporarily closed or its license revoked. Amsterdam is home to an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 prostitutes, who are frequently called 'sex workers' by politicians, prostitution advocates, and the media.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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