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Holland: 
Tempting the Tourist
With Hookers and Hookahs

Dutch prostitution and drugs

ABOVE: Within walking distance of this quiet canalside neighborhood, you can window-shop for sex in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

The Dutch 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 fire safety.

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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