Amsterdam mayor to clean up red light district

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Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen announced he will clean up the city’s red light district in a bid to reduce human trafficking, money laundering and drug abuse, by replacing prostitutes’ windows with clothes shops.

Cohen said he wanted to put a stop to the criminals taking advantage of the city’s prostitutes and corrupting the city centre.

“The romantic picture of the area is outdated if you see the abuses in the sex industry and that is why the council has to act,” he told Reuters.

“We don’t want to get rid of prostitution but we do want to cut crime significantly.”

Earning around 70 million euros (£49.9 million) a year, the red light district will be limited to few streets.

Cohen also said he would reconsider the city’s legislation on legal prostitution, claiming that it had not successfully protected it’s sex workers.

Although previous law was supposed to make prostitutes self-employed taxpayers, the city said the industry is still controlled by criminals.

As one of the main sources of concern for the city is forced prostitution, Cohen will demand brothel owners, escort agencies and those who protect prostitutes to apply for permits.

He will also change the minimum age for prostitution, where a woman can earn up to 370 euros a day, from 18 to 21.

In September, Cohen sold around one third of the area that makes up the red light district.

The NV Stadsgoed housing corporation purchased 18 buildings with 51 windows for 25 million Euros (£18 million).

These will be turned into chic apartments, upmarket shops, galleries and high-quality hotels and restaurant.

Cohen insisted however that he didn’t want to get rid of prostitution entirely, since it is part of the area’s history and a major tourist draw for the city.

“It will always be an exciting city with more freedom and more tolerance than elsewhere in the world,” said the city’s Deputy mayor Lodewijk Asscher.

“There will be other tourists and maybe more tourists but if you go here as a tourist you don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed about what you see.

“You can be assured that those prostitutes who remain are not working involuntarily.”

The city has already withdrawn permits from many of sex businesses it believes deal with organised crime such as Yab Yum, one of Amsterdam’s major clubs.

It is currently fighting closure in the courts.

In Amsterdam, around 5% of prostitutes are male and another 5% are transsexuals.