Increasing the legal age is part of a set of measures designed to tackle abuse in the prostitution industry and strengthen the position of prostitutes. Prostitution operators will soon be obliged to demonstrate that they provide adequate supervision and window brothels will close at night, just like other businesses in the city.

The decision to increase the legal age has been taken following research indicating that younger women in the industry are more frequently victims of abuse, such as forced prostitution and other forms of (financial) exploitation. The nature of the work also demands a certain level of maturity. Several companies already enforce a minimum age of their own accord but this will now be extended to cover all prostitution companies in Amsterdam.

Additional rights and obligations

Prostitution operators will be required to take more responsibility for tackling abuse in the industry. They will also be obliged to draft a business plan in which they outline how they protect the rights of the prostitutes, prevent human trafficking and ensure that the prostitutes are in good health and have a safe working environment. Prostitution operators will have to arrange an intake consultation with prostitutes looking to work at the company to ensure that they possess suitable levels of independence to enter the industry.

For example, prostitution operators will have to test the language competence of applicants. It is vitally important that prostitutes are able to make themselves understood so that they understand what their rights and obligations are, but also so that they can communicate effectively with social workers and those supervising the industry. Prostitutes also need to be able to communicate with customers in order to reach clear agreements and need to have adequate language skills in order to suitably handle emergencies.

The business plan also needs to outline the envisioned working hours, as well as the conditions and prices related to hiring a brothel window. Discussions with prostitutes have indicated that certain problems are directly linked to working conditions. For example, prostitutes being forced to rent windows for extended periods. The high price associated with this results in extremely long working days in order to cover costs. The new measures do mean that prostitution window operators will only be required to apply for a single permit. Legitimate business owners can also expect to be inspected less frequently.

Closing times

Location-specific prostitution companies such as brothels and brothel windows will be required to close at night, mirroring hospitality industry opening hours. This means they will have to close between 04:00 and 09:00 on weekdays and between 05:00 and 09:00 on weekends. This is because there is currently insufficient (social) supervision in place during these nocturnal hours. Working becomes more dangerous for prostitutes and they have to deal with drunk and aggressive customers more frequently.

The Public Prosecution Service has ascertained from criminal cases in Amsterdam that the majority of victims of human trafficking were working at these times of the night. Prostitutes can have extremely long workdays, sometimes up to 16 or 17 hours a day. Restricted opening hours help to limit this risk and are fundamentally important in light of the heavy mental and physical demands of the profession. 

Public consultation

The local authority regulation proposals for the prostitution industry are now open for public consultation. The general public are invited to offer their opinion on the proposals during a six-week period by visiting amsterdam.nl/prostitutie. Members of the supervisory team will also be visiting the companies concerned in order to inform prostitutes of the latest developments. Information will also be made available in various languages including English, Spanish, Romanian and Hungarian. All prostitution operators will be sent a letter informing them of the changes and inviting them to voice their opinion. 

Abuse in the prostitution industry

Between 5,000 and 8,000 prostitutes work in Amsterdam. These include the victims of human trafficking, coercion and exploitation. The precise percentage of prostitutes affected is not certain: estimates range from 8% up to 90%. The Prostitution Framework Act (Kaderwet Prostitutie) proposed several measures to tackle abuse in the prostitution industry, but this received insufficient support in the Dutch Senate.

Early in 2013, the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Alkmaar, Eindhoven, Leeuwarden and Den Bosch called on Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten to still introduce a number of measures included in the bill to parliament as soon as possible. These were less controversial measures such as raising the legal minimum age and a national permit system for prostitution companies. In anticipation of developments on a national level, Amsterdam has decided to take action to help bring about swift safety improvements in the industry. 

City of Amsterdam Press Office, 26 February 2013