The world-famous Red Light District is severely affected by the corona crisis. There is a fear that sex work will only start last in the 1.5-meter society. Will it ever be as it was in the red light district? “We are very sensitive to the recession.”
Sanne is a sex worker at the Red Light District and she also has a part-time job as an office manager at an entertainment company. Due to the corona crisis, she lost both jobs overnight and with it all her income. “We are consuming our reserves and they are not that big,” she says.
Sex work in times of corona is impossible. De Wallen, until recently the busiest part of Amsterdam, has been degraded to a ghost district with empty streets due to the crisis. For years, administrators and politicians have wondered how to calm the Red Light District, well, a virus of microscopic size has managed to do it. From one day to the next, tourists have disappeared, the windows of the sex workers closed, the catering and the erotic theaters closed. The only place where it is still busy is at the timber trade Schmidt, where the rows are at the door. They have also been working on the Red Light District.
Left for homeland
Sex workers are at home or have left for their homeland, mostly in Eastern Europe. “I think more than half of the Eastern European women have gone home,” said Eric Hamaker of accounting firm Red Light Tax, which assists many sex workers.
The decision to quit was a major one, but not hard to make, says Sanne. “It’s about our safety. Working further was scary. Italy was already closing due to corona, but many Italian tourists were still walking around here on the Red Light District. ”
The future of the Red Light District is uncertain. Sex work suffers from the ‘intelligent lockdown’ just as much as hairdressers, cafes, hotels and restaurants, all of which are closed. The big difference: a café or restaurant can prepare for the 1.5 meter society that will shape our near future. Sex work is impossible at a meter and a half. Moreover, it will take a long time before tourism in Amsterdam gets going again. In other words, sex work may well be the last industry to get going again when corona is under control. “I don’t think I’ll start working again until there is a vaccine,” said Sanne.
Lap dance at one and a half meters
Cor van Dijk, director of, among others, Casa Rosso and the Bananenbar and chairman of the business association, fears that companies will fall over. “Most will last for a few months, maybe a year. If this crisis continues for a long time, we have a problem. ”
Van Dijk tries to adapt sex theater Casa Rosso to the new times. After the reopening, far fewer people are allowed to enter. This is more difficult for the Bananenbar: a lap dance at a meter and a half is complicated.
In the background, the political debate about the future of window prostitution in the Red Light District is stimulated by mayor Femke Halsema, who wants to curb the crowds, limit human trafficking and strengthen the position of women behind the window. This debate has been put aside for a moment, because the corona pandemic is now drawing all the attention, but Halsema also wants to wait and see what the Red Light District will look like after this crisis, she has told the city council.
Sensitive to recession
Does corona give the decisive blow to the Red Light District and will this world-famous part of Amsterdam never be the same again? Sex worker Sanne says that many of her colleagues are asking this question. “We are very sensitive to recession. After the previous crisis, it also took a very long time to get things going again.”
Other Red Light District entrepreneurs are brave. “We look at it from day to day,” says Jan Broers, who rents out windows on the Red Light District. But when the doors open again, it will be as usual. Then people come again, because they are herd animals. ” Van Dijk: The world will never be the same again after this crisis, including the Red Light District. Eventually it gets going again. People have been huddled for a long time, so they will soon feel like coming this way again. We are going to survive this. ”