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Half of all Amsterdam prostitution windows, coffeeshops to close

By Adriana Stuijt     Dec 6, 2008 in Lifestyle
An Amsterdam city councillor wants to close more than half of the infamous prostitution windows and coffee shops in the inner city, claiming they have become fronts for organised crime.
Anti-slavery campaigner and labour party city councillor Lodewijk Asscher already raised the issue in February. This week he submitted a detailed report , noting that between 50 and 90 per cent of all the prostitutes working in Amsterdam's inner-city were found to be working there against their will - coerced and forced by international criminal gangs.
He said today that these findings were shocking; yet there were no public protest campaigns against this slavery practice. He said Amsterdam was becoming the centre of the sex-slavery industry and organised criminal gangs were increasingly setting up businesses to launder their money in the inner city, too.
He warned: 'we must protect the security of these men and women who voluntarily chose to do this work, while also wiping out the evil of sex-slavery by closing down those crime-linked windows and coffee shops.' He says at least 50% of all these businesses would have to close. He also proposes a strict control regimen to stop the criminal gangs from getting their hooks back into the small Amsterdam red-light district again.
Another councillor, Marijke Vos, has also gained city-wide approval for her working paper to drastically improve the legal rights and working conditions for the window prostitutes and to set up structures which would allow those prostitutes who are being forced through violence or other pressure such drug-addiction or faked 'debts' with the crime gangs who abducted them, to work there, to return home to their families.
Last December Asscher started investigating the growing culture of sex-slavery and the growth of criminal drugs gangs in the Wallen, a tiny two-street area of Amsterdam where prostitution had been traditionally 'condoned' by the authorities.
His report to the town council notes that the drugs- and sex-slavery gangs are increasingly setting up 'money-laundering' businesses in the Amsterdam city centre such as coffee shops and legitimate-looking front businesses.
His recommendation this week was to close all those shop windows and businesses which have links to the criminal gangs -- about half the shops would have to close under this plan.
The local labour party manager said after submitting his action plan that it now would be 'up to the town council' to take the next step.
He said particularly rankling was the growth of sex-slavery - which the Dutch had always managed to avoid by allowing limited prostitution in this one small section of Amsterdam, and where prostitutes even had their own trade union.
"We would like it if there wouldn't be a story of modern slavery hiding behind that smiling woman in the window,' said Asscher.
More about Amsterdam coffee shops, Prostitution windows, Antislavery campaign
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