Dutch fed up with liberal reputation

1st January 2009, Comments 1 comment

In a new attempt to curb crime seen as linked to the sex and drugs trade across the Netherlands, several major Dutch cities decided dramatically to cut back their officially regulated local prostitution zones in 2008.

Amsterdam -- Marihuana may still rank third on the list of most popular export Dutch products but the liberal Dutch approach to drugs and sex seems to have ended in the Netherlands.

In a new attempt to curb crime seen as linked to the sex and drugs trade across the Netherlands, several major Dutch cities decided dramatically to cut back their officially regulated local prostitution zones in 2008.

Dutch mayors joined forces to close down or replace their local 'coffee shops' -- stores were so-called soft drugs are sold legally.

In addition, the Dutch parliament outlawed the sale of particular soft drugs, such as certain types of mushrooms, that had only been legalized a few years earlier.

It all started with the city of Amsterdam, which after long legal battles managed to close down a substantial amount of brothels located its famous red-light district in the medieval city center.

Prostitution itself is legal in the Netherlands. Companies operating brothels are however required to obtain a license before they can open for business.

New legislation from 2003, called BIBOB, has forced all corporations seeking to renew their license to prove that they generate their income from legal activities.

Following this law, it emerged that several sex corporations’ owners operating in the red-light district thrived on money from dubious sources.

As a result, licenses were withdrawn from 18 sex businesses, effectively forcing them out of business.

The city also purchased a few buildings from one of Amsterdam's biggest sex business owners. They were redone and opened in January as ateliers for up-and-coming fashion designers: the new Amsterdam Fashion District.

Amsterdam's example in tackling the sex industry itself became fashionable: The cities Alkmaar and Utrecht - with the second and third largest prostitution zones of the country -followed suit in autumn of 2008.

Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam, announced it would not be renewing the license of the JE Nool company which operated 95 out of in total 125 brothels in the city. The city argued that JE Nool did not fulfill the terms of the 2003 BIBOB law.

In Utrecht in the central Netherlands, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance was launched in the local prostitution zone to curb violence against women, women's trafficking and other sex-and- drugs-related crimes.

"We need to know which women are being forced to work as prostitutes," Mayor Aleid Wolfsen explained, "or if women are abused or exploited. Filming the area, and knowing which pimps are connected to which women, will increase our opportunities to help the women."

The move was prompted by the findings of two independent studies according to which between 50 and 90 percent of Utrecht's prostitutes in the official red light zone were being forced to work in the sex business.

Meanwhile, Dutch police were also busy tracking down sites where cannabis was being grown illegally.

The sale of so-called soft drugs -- marijuana -- is legal in the Netherlands, but growing cannabis, which is used to make marijuana, is prohibited.

In 2008 Dutch police closed down more than 5,500 sites where cannabis was cultivated illegally -- 15 per day.

However, Dutch cities and towns near the German and Belgian borders had a more difficult job tackling the 730 so-called "coffee shops" in which nearly 300,000 kilograms of soft drugs were sold in 2008.

Continued attempts by the southern Dutch city of Maastricht to move all coffee shops from the city center to an area outside the city, failed.

However, after the cities of Roosendaal en Bergen-op-Zoom in the southwestern Netherlands closed all their coffeeshops, Maastricht's Mayor Gerd Leers initiated a special meeting, dubbed cannabis summit, in November.

If anything, 2008 demonstrated the true face of what the Dutch meant when they legalized drugs and prostitution -- freedom, but within a strict legal realm.

Rachel Levy/DPA/Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • Albrecht posted:

    on 11th February 2009, 00:28:54 - Reply

    Congratulations Charlie! You've learned that government payment, basically ransom, makes you more money than the how-shall-we-say less than reputable trades! I hope you enjoy your life in Aruba or whereever your government money takes you! I think it is hilarious, although it is sad that the Puritanical USA