A red light district is a neighborhood where prostitution and other businesses in the sex industry flourish. The term “red light district” was first recorded in the United States in 1894, in an article in The Sentinel, a newspaper in Milwaukee. Other mentions from the 1890s are numerous, and located all over the United States. The famous Red light district of Amsterdam is called “De Wallen”.
De Wallen is the largest and best-known red light district in Amsterdam and a major tourist attraction. It is located in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam, covering several blocks south of the church Oude Kerk and crossed by several canals. The red light district is a network of alleys containing a little less than three hundred tiny one-room cabins rented by female prostitutes who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana.
Origin of the red light district
The red light district has existed since the 14th century and formerly contained many distilleries, mainly catering to sailors. The name Wallen (walls) refers to the medieval retaining dam walls in the old center of Amsterdam.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, with the exception of streetwalking. However, only EU citizens can work legally in the industry, since no working permits are given for prostitution.
While health and social services are readily available, sex workers are not required to undergo regular health checks. A study conducted before 2006 found that about 7 percent of all Dutch prostitutes (including street prostitutes) have HIV/AIDS. Brothel owners and room operators often require health certificates before employing or leasing rooms
In September 2007, the city council of Amsterdam at the behest of mayor Job Cohen, concerned about trafficking and pimping in the area, forced the owner Charlie Geerts to close 51 prostitution windows, reducing the total number of windows in De Wallen by a third. Amsterdam authorities bought 18 properties from Geerts, with the aim of developing the area with fashion designers and other up scale businesses.
Mariska Majoor of the Prostitution Information Centre and representatives of the sex worker rights group De Rode Draad have decried the decision, claiming it would not reduce crime but would only lead to higher rent and more competition for the remaining windows.
In January 2008 the city council announced plans to close the Casa Rosso live sex theatre and the Banana bar strip club in the area. Local business owners have formed the group “Platform 1012” (named after the zipcode of the area) to oppose the efforts of the Amsterdam government.
Wanna walk through
In my previous post I recommended some tours in Amsterdam which will take you to pass through the Red Light District.