Tempting the Tourist
With Hookers and Hookahs
ABOVE: Within walking distance of this quiet
canalside neighborhood, you can window-shop for sex in Amsterdam's Red Light
are known for pragmatism, tolerance, and trade. Put those three characteristics
together in today's freewheeling society, and you get a nation that attracts
thrill-seeking tourists with commercialized sex and soft drugs.
One fairly recent chapter in this story was written in October, 1999, when the Dutch
Parliament overturned a 1912 law against brothels. A news
report from the Associated Press explained the rationale behind Parliament's
move to legalize what already existed:
The new law is aimed at guaranteeing cleaner and safer
working conditions for the country's estimated 30,000 prostitutes and allowing
police to focus their crackdowns on the employment of illegal immigrants and
underaged girls. Prostitution is already legal in the Netherlands.
"This proposal overturns the ban on brothels and replaces it with a ban
on child prostitution and exploitation of involuntary prostitution,'' said an
official summary of the law. "It will enable municipalities to regulate
voluntary prostitution and the position of prostitutes will be improved.''
Although bordellos have been illegal, they have long been allowed to operate
in clearly defined areas such as the red light districts of Amsterdam and most
other major cities, as long as they follow strict standards for health and
And several years ago, Reuters reported that a Dutch brothel chain
"hoped to open a branch at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport...to cater
to stressed travelers." Local authorities were said to be receptive to the
idea, although the bordello--to be known as the Yum Yum Caviar Club--would have
to wait "until building work at the airport is completed and space in the
departures area becomes available." (More recently, the brothel chain sued
airport officials for failing to greenlight the project.)
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