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Amsterdam prostitutes could move outside red light area

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THE HAGUE: Amsterdam could let prostitutes operate outside the city's famed red-light district in a bid to clean up the area and improve conditions for the women who work there, officials said Friday (Nov 2).

Sex workers in their glass-fronted booths in the Dutch capital complain that they are subject to gawping from camera-toting tourists, whose presence also deters potential clients.

City authorities are therefore debating a plan to give sex workers licences to work elsewhere in Amsterdam, for example in safe, hotel-style purpose-built brothels.

The plan is being pushed by Amsterdam's first female mayor, Femke Halsema, and has been formally proposed by three of the parties in the city's governing coalition - Groenlinks, the progressive D66 and the Socialist Party.

"The idea is that sex workers will have more choices than either working from home or in the touristy area where they have much less anonymity," said D66 councillor Alexander Hammelburg.

"Secondly, it will solve the problem of a shortage of legal workspaces for sex workers," he told AFP.

The 'Wallen' (Dutch for 'canal banks', is the inner city's seedy red light district and includes its infamous red-framed windows where prostitutes ply their trade.

Amsterdam is taking a series of steps to ease the pressure from tourism. Some 18 million tourists flock to Amsterdam every year - more than the entire population of the Netherlands.

The city has taken major steps to push back against unruly visitors, mainly groups of young men who roam the Wallen at weekends, on pub crawls or to celebrate stag parties drawn by easy access to drugs and prostitution.

It has instituted stiff fines and penalties for breaking public disturbance laws, while in August it announced compulsory clean-up breaks in streets and monitoring of crowds.
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