Saturday, September 22, 2007

Amsterdam: Dimming The Right Lights

I found an article I thought might be interesting to share:

Mention that you've been to Amsterdam, and you'll likely to get a knowing smirk. While the Netherlands' capital is home to beautiful canals, stunning art and lovely 17th-century residences, the city is equally known internationally for its pot-purveying coffee shops and its vibrant red light district, complete with prostitutes posing in windows to lure the punters.

The city has reached a 25m euro (£18m) deal to buy 18 buildings and turn them into shops or housing. The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said that although prostitution was legal in the Netherlands, there was too much of the sex trade in the city center. He also said that the trade involved exploitation and trafficking of women, and other kinds of criminal activity.

Prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district ply their trade in neon-lit street windows and the area's seediness has always been part of its attraction for tourists. Under the deal, 51 of these windows - a third of the total - will be sold.

The plan affects about a third of the display windows in Amsterdam's famous Wallen district and the city hopes the move will take a bite out of trafficking and pimping -- problems that plague the sex industry in Amsterdam and indeed across Europe. But De Rode Draad (The Red Thread), an advocacy and support group for Holland's prostitutes, says that the move misses the target completely and disadvantages the sex workers themselves.

"By closing down the windows, you take a lot of work away from prostitutes who work independently," Sietske Altink, a deputy spokeswoman for De Rode Draad says. "It doesn't make sense to penalize the women when you want to go after the owners. Closing down the windows doesn't help the women."

Prostitutes hire the windows for around 100 euros (£70, $141) for part of the day. One window is usually used by several prostitutes a day. While returns vary depending on the time of day, prostitutes can rake in several hundred euros during an evening shift, Altink says. Limiting the number of windows will merely drive the rental costs up with little added protection, she says.

What do you think? I've been to Amsterdam at least a dozen times. My first trip goes back to the late 70's when the city was a pleasure to visit. The last time was during my trip around the world in '95 and every five minutes it seems someone came up to me on the street trying to sell me mind-altering products. For a person who does not use drugs (I hardly ever take aspirin) it was a pain. I went there to see what is still a beautiful old city and to tour the city's famous museum. I can see the mayor's point but I also know whole families walk through the narrow streets of the red light district. It is really something to see. Street crime was making the city a dangerous place, especially at night, so I suppose I support the mayor's views. I just wonder if this move will help. Find out more about the city's famous area at:

Research info gathered from BBC News/Spiegel Online

Now, here's a poem that you can't keep your eyes off:

Or Dreaming In A Coat Room

Not to forget the way back-
that path etched along a faraway wash of sequoias
in an ellipse then slipped between two seasons,

or in a configuration posing as a trail of wet leaves
and pine cones that wish they weren't so useless,

or entwined in a hedge that twists itself through the
rust-gray of reason in a dream only sleepers believe,

arriving at the wide brown of a dying field using a
plow to drag aqueous spirits inside.

All of this could easily be part of the persuasion.

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