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Amsterdam Set to Relocate Famed Red Light District

Amsterdam Redlight District to Close

The move is part of a broader effort to "clean up" the city’s image as a drug and sex tourism destination, but sex workers oppose the move.

The city of Amsterdam appears set to relocate at least part of their famed red light district to a new “erotic centre” located away from the city center and the eyes of most tourists. The city council approved the move, which Mayor Femke Halsema said was needed due to the abuse and ridicule the women working in the brothels often faced from tourists, according to a report in The Guardian.

“Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost,” Dennis Boutkan, of the Dutch Labour party, argued. “This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city.”

A coalition of over 100 sex workers opposed the move, describing it as costly and doing little to help their livelihoods. Male and transgender sex workers have typically lauded the red light district as helping to ensure their safety, although high rents often drove LGBTQ+ sex workers away from the windows of the district's central core.

The move will shutter a significant number of the windows where sex workers sit on display for passersby and patrons. They will be invited to the new district located in the Westelijk Havengebied district in the northeastern part of the city. Not everyone agrees with the move, though. Red Light United, the union that represents 170  female sex workers known as "window prostitutes," prefers staying in the district’s current location.

“Relocating those workplaces is not an option because then the customers will not know where to find the sex workers,” said Foxxy, a member of Red Light United, asking if the mayor intends to “sometimes organize bus trips” to bring lost patrons to the new center.

The move appears set to go forward despite the opposition. It’s part of a larger effort to "clean up" the city’s image of a drug and sex tourism destination. A second proposal seeks to ban cannabis sales in the city’s famed cannabis cafes to tourists and nonresidents.

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Donald Padgett

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.