Dutch cabinet gets tighter grip on sex industry


Western Europe


Red light district in Amsterdam. Photo ANP, Robin Utrecht

The Dutch cabinet wants to give municipalities more tools to check local sex sellers and see if they abide by the regulations.

State Secretary of Justice, Van der Burg, has drafted the law “Municipal control of sex industries”. The Lower House will discuss the proposal later this year, the Reformatorisch Dagblad reports.

When prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands in 2000, the Dutch authorities decided that municipal councils could make their own rules for the prostitution branch. For example, they could determine in which zones selling sex was allowed. Furthermore, they could implement regulations such as bans on hiring minors for prostitution.


However, in practice, this clause did not work. Municipalities that wanted to enforce the rules lost several court cases initiated by sex workers, sex operators and the Dutch Authority Personal Data. They claimed that the municipal regulations violated their right to privacy.

Amsterdam sex operators, for example, had to prove in an interview that they were sufficiently self-reliant. A municipal supervisor then received the reports of the conversation and was allowed to store them in an archive. The Dutch Council of State rejected this way of doing things in 2018.


Also, the mayor of the Dutch city of Utrecht was fined because sex workers in his town had to register themselves. And to get registered, they were forced to go for a consultation with the Dutch Health Service. The reports of these conversations were stored in a register. However, the highest Dutch judge ruled that making such a register was not allowed. The national law did not give municipalities such authority.

Now, the new draft law of Van der Burg should change this. The State Secretary emphasises that it is only meant for checking operators, not individual sex workers.



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