Netherlands backtracking on sex workers?


Sex work has long been legal in countries like the Netherlands. But now a petition has been launched to change the law and adopt the so-called ‘Nordic model’ of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland and France that makes it an offense for people to buy the services of sex workers. The petitioners claim that legal sex work leads to exploitation and human trafficking. What is surprising is that the 42,000 young people have signed the petition. What is not surprising is that many of these young people are religious.

Some sex workers are resisting the move.

Women working behind the red light windows have told me it is their free choice – but deeper conversations reveal it’s often based on circumstances which they felt left them with no alternative.

They include single mothers struggling to ensure that their children in Romania receive a decent education, and young women who have experienced abuse, leaving them with low self-esteem.

But Foxxy, a board member on the sex-workers’ collective Proud, warns that any attempt to criminalise clients would harm the prostitutes themselves.

“This petition is not in the sex workers’ interest. It’s people who read the Bible who are trying to stop us,” she argues.

“If this happens sex workers will work illegally. Then we’re more likely to be victims of violence. Clients will know we can’t go to the police. We will be much more at risk, clients will try to take condoms off, we’re more at risk of being exposed to HIV. It happened in France when they started this Nordic model.”

The number of petition signatories is large enough that the government will now have to discuss the issue.

Comments

  1. Holms says

    “If this happens sex workers will work illegally. Then we’re more likely to be victims of violence. Clients will know we can’t go to the police. We will be much more at risk, clients will try to take condoms off, we’re more at risk of being exposed to HIV. It happened in France when they started this Nordic model.”

    This person is surprisingly uninformed. Under this system, the prostitute does not face any penalties, as the selling of sex is not illegal; the purchaser does, because only purchasing sex is illegal.

  2. Matt G says

    Religious arguments mean nothing to me, but I do see valid arguments on both sides from a human rights perspective. If people freely choose to be sex workers, I respect that choice, but how do you protect vulnerable people from being coerced into it and where do you draw the line?

  3. ardipithecus says

    @1 Holms

    The ‘penalties’ come from her customers, not the justice system. They include things like brutality, rape and murder, and they fly under the radar.

  4. peterk says

    “Netherlands backtracking on prostitution”? No, not really. The article at the link does not mention the fact that it took 6 YEARS to get to the requisite 40.000 signatures to get on the parliamentary agenda. This is clearly an extreme minority view.

  5. Holms says

    #3
    The text states “Clients will know we can’t go to the police” with complaints about the things you mention, but this is totally wrong. The prostitute absolutely can go to police without facing any personal liability, as the selling of sex faces no penalty. And I see no real substantiation that clients will be any more violent etc. than before; this belief seems to be based on the presumption that they will behave so because the under the Nordic model, the prostitute cannot go to police. As stated, this is false.

  6. Allison says

    Holms @ #5

    The text states “Clients will know we can’t go to the police” with complaints about the things you mention, but this is totally wrong…

    Are you a sex worker?

    If not, I suggest that maybe someone who is one may have a better grasp of the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences of such policy changes than you.

    The history of prostitution policies shows that policies produced by people who aren’t sex workers (which AFAIK is all policies so far) almost always end up hurting the sex workers most of all.

    Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s due to ignorance (often willful) of the reality that sex workers live with, but unless the voices of sex workers themselves are the primary ones involved in making the policies, those policies will only make things worse for the sex workers.

    The slogan “nothing about us without us” applies to sex workers as much as to other marginalized communities (LGBT, disabled, minorities, etc.) Or, as someone once put it, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

  7. Holms says

    #6
    It is entirely possible that she is right and I am wrong, but not on the strength of the argument she supplied to make the case for her claim, because that argument is based on an incorrect assertion. If she has good reasons to make that claim, it is a shame she did not supply them.

  8. Allison says

    It is entirely possible that she is right and I am wrong, but not on the strength of the argument she supplied to make the case for her claim, because that argument is based on an incorrect assertion.

    What? That sex workers won’t be able to go to the police? Well, if you want to be hyper-literal, I suppose you’re right.

    Just as women who are raped can, technically, go to the police. But, in practice, they are usually treated so badly (sometimes even threatened with arrest for making a “false claim” if they don’t recant), and the cases usually not pursued, with the result that it is the victim who is punished and not the offender. So one might reasonably say that they can’t.

    I don’t know how it is in the Netherlands, but in all the places I am familiar with, including ones where prostitution is legal, the prejudice against sex workers is so strong that they rarely get justice from the police or the courts.

    If she has good reasons to make that claim, it is a shame she did not supply them.

    Maybe she did, but it didn’t make it into the report. Or maybe she thought it was too obvious to need being made explicit. It seemed pretty obvious to me, and I’m not a sex worker, nor have I known any.

  9. Holms says

    Your attempt to justify Foxxy’s claim is undermined by her own wording: “This petition is not in the sex workers’ interest. … If this happens sex workers will work illegally.” It is obvious that she is talking about a change being brought by this petition rather than any long-standing prejudice already in place; and she openly states her belief that the petition involves making her work illegal for her, not just the purchaser. Which is not correct.

    Maybe she did, but it didn’t make it into the report. Or maybe she thought it was too obvious to need being made explicit. It seemed pretty obvious to me, and I’m not a sex worker, nor have I known any.

    You mean, you are giving her credit for words that are not apparent, and in fact are contradicted by what she stated. But it appears we are in agreement in one respect: her words as far as we can read from this article provide no good argument in support of her statement.

  10. says

    Holms @#1

    This person is surprisingly uninformed. Under this system, the prostitute does not face any penalties, as the selling of sex is not illegal; the purchaser does, because only purchasing sex is illegal.

    Your opinion is what’s uneducated.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/juno_mac_the_laws_that_sex_workers_really_want
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zDqmedFE_Q

    Here are two speeches by women who are sex workers. In these speeches they explain what kind of laws sex workers themselves want. In these videos both women also explain why criminalizing their customers is harmful also for the sex workers’ safety. Sex workers do face serious penalties under a system that makes purchasing sex illegal. I will abstain from summarizing their arguments, because I believe that it’s better to let sex workers speak for themselves.

  11. rijkswaanvijand says

    @ Matt G “how do you protect vulnerable people from being coerced into it and where do you draw the line?”

    To me, that doesn’t seem like a discussion that should be limited to prostitution. Is economical precariousness itself not a position of vulnerability which coerces every worker to sell labour for an unfair price? By the way fostering and growing the causal power imbalance by lining the pockets of the rich pigs that exploit us?

    Personally, I’d rather get fucked literally and reap the full benefits, than get fucked figuratively and be left stuck in the mud.