John

No More Sex and Drugs In Amsterdam?

In News on February 13, 2008 at 11:22 am

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It’s been well-known that Amsterdam is where repressed Asians dream of going, if only just to window shop and smoke a joint without fear of death. That certainty, however, looks set to disappear in the near future if city councilors get their way in clearing the streets.

I don’t think it’s a good move–the clean-up will merely force business onto the streets into even more shady practices. Singapore’s recent proposal to “curb [HIV] infections by making it a crime for those who engage in such unsafe practices” like going to Batam for a stag weekend isn’t going to stop people from visiting brothels either–it’ll just make tracking the activity more difficult.

Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession (who said that, anyway?), and it’s not gonna go away just because the city council says no. From Newsweek:

Amsterdam without the Red Light District? Wouldn’t that be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Amsterdam’s mayor, Job Cohen, and his aldermen have demonstrated little nostalgia for the district, which has been the world’s most famous home of sexual permissiveness since the 15th century.

They first unveiled the plan to close it in December; last month they revoked the licenses of two widely known sex venues, the Casa Rosso and the Banana Bar. The next step is to buy out the real estate owners. Last fall the city struck a deal with a powerful brothel owner, Charles Geerts (known as “Fat Charlie”), to buy 20 buildings.

The driving force behind the cleanup is Lodewijk Asscher. A young star of the Dutch Labour Party and deputy mayor of Amsterdam, Asscher believes it’s time to deliver his hometown from sleaze—even if he’s scuppering a $100 million-a-year industry in the process. He is pleasantly surprised, he says, by the public support he’s gotten for the plan.

“Every day I get e-mails,” he says. A recent survey confirms the sentiment: the city administration’s polling agency found that 67 percent of Amsterdam’s population supports a clampdown on sketchy business. The Amsterdam City Council approved the plan about two weeks ago by an overwhelming 43-2 majority.

The crackdown fits into a nationwide backlash against the excesses of 1960s “happy-clappy” liberalism, as a conservative Dutch member of parliament recently put it. Over the last few years the Netherlands has adopted a stricter policy on selling marijuana, and a ban on hallucinogenic mushrooms is slated to go into effect later this year.

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