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Gentrification project Red Light District Amsterdam failed

27/06/2018

10 Years ago the city of Amsterdam announced a big change for the world famous Red Light District. Many window brothels and coffeeshops would be closed down to crack down on organized crimes such as human trafficking and upgrade the area. Now, 10 years later, 112 prostitution windows and 48 coffeeshops are closed down, but organized crime is still present and the promised upgrade of the Red Light District turned into a disaster according to the Amsterdam Court of Audit.

In a couple of things the gentrification project known as Project 1012 did succeed. There has been a partial financial upgrade of the area. Improvements where made on the public space, prices of real estate went up significantly and some streets became a success.

However, breaking through the so called ‘monoculture’ of window brothels and coffeeshops turned out to be a failure. Closing down the window brothels and coffeeshops didn’t seem to be the problem, but they were replaced with a new ‘monoculture’ of touristy souvenir shops and ice/wafel salons as well as some cheese shops. The result is almost ironic, since the city of Amsterdam is crumbling under the pressure of mass tourism and the new monoculture of touristy fast food shops only adds to this.

Also interesting is the fact that the report of the Amsterdam Court of Audit shows that the situation for sex workers in the Red Light District has not improved because of Project 1012. In fact, their situation has only declined, since they have less workplaces available, giving brothel owners more of a monopoly position.

On top of that the workplaces that were closed down for sex workers where more suitable for prostitution than others. Many windows that were closed down where located in the more narrow alleys of the Red Light District, which were more favourable for sex workers, because customers prefer more anonymity, as opposed to the windows on the canals which are much more public.

Human trafficking is also still present in the Red Light District, as closing down the window brothels did not seem to have had any effect on it. It only seemed to have moved a portion underground, making it more difficult to locate possible trafficking victims. According to the Amsterdam Court of Audit since 2005 until 2016 there have been 119 victims of trafficking, averaging at 10 victims per year in an area where on a daily base there are about 400 sex workers working.

The prostitutes in the Red Light District of Amsterdam protested in 2015 against Project 1012 to stop closing down their windows. Almost 300 sex workers marched from the Red Light District to the city hall to demand the mayor to stop closing down more window brothels.

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