Q MAGAZINE – Sex workers returned to the red light district in Amsterdam on Wednesday, after six “boring” months of no activity, as the government began to ease sanitary restrictions.
The women can already be seen in their canal-side windows for the first time since early December, during which time, they say, they had no government support.
The rooms where they serve their clients now display official announcements about the covid-19 affixed to the walls, where people are alerted about hand washing and the use of masks if they wish.
“I am very happy that we opened again after this long time without working. It is very nice to see my colleagues again and to have a certain regularity in my life. Sitting at home is very boring,” said a sex worker who identified herself as Kelly. “For many girls, it’s a catastrophe, surely because most of them got no support from the government and had to work illegally.”
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but the government temporarily banned it along with other “contact professions” in December during the second wave of the coronavirus in that country.
As a result, many sex workers were forced to work illegally, in unsafe conditions, their union claimed.
Another sex worker called Jeanne said that it was not right that the activity was prohibited when other professions such as hairdressing were authorized to open months before.
“We can get sick and contaminate our customers, therefore we are very careful with our hygiene. We have applied everything related to hand washing and other sanitary measures before,” she commented.
The red light district has long been one of Amsterdam’s main tourism draws, even if some locals resent the overcrowding and behavior of young groups of mainly male visitors.
But like many other people across Europe returning to their workplaces as vaccines temper the outbreak, Kelly said it was also simply good to be back at work.
“Now the girls are open again, the bars are open again, it’s a step forward actually, I’m really happy,” said bar manager Davey Mell, 27. “This has been a hard time for everybody here in Amsterdam, especially in this district.”
Barber Kieran Deacon, 23, said the return of the sex workers had been “very good for the atmosphere of the area”.
“I hope that the tourists start to get back, a lot of our business model here relies on tourism,” he added. However, he also backed calls for local authorities to clean up the area and make it less frantic.
Amsterdam officials have even talked of moving the sex workers to the outskirts of town to reduce the impact on the historic area, even if many people who work there want less drastic measures.