But to return to the subject of my very last blog post I wanted to write. I wanted to write something about the report (Het Zandpad: closing brothels or closing eyes? which is written in Dutch) that Dina Siegel wrote about the closure of the window prostitution boats along het Zandpad in Utrecht (in 2013), because of the abuse and human trafficking that allegedly happened in that area. Dina Siegel believes that the rights of the voluntary prostitutes who work there have been violated, and that the prostitutes are worse off now. Dina Siegel contradicts herself a little bit regarding the size of forced prostitution on het Zandpad. She said in the radio program Argos that there was no forced prostitution on het Zandpad. In her book she is willing to accept that between 4 and 8 women were forced into prostitution on het Zandpad. In an interview she says that she doesn't know how big forced prostitution was on het Zandpad.
This blog is more like a mosaic of all my thoughts about Dina Siegel's claims, and I have added some thoughts about prostitution in general and some things I have learned. This is not really a carefully structured essay. But none of my blog posts are, by the way.
I have written about Dina Siegel elsewhere on my blog, read it here:
And here (you can see some quotes from texts written by Dina Siegel):
I have written about het Zandpad before, here:
I agree with Dina Siegel that the closure happened too hastily. There was no emergency plan. The women were not helped or compensated. Dina Siegel believes that closing the brothels, is like closing your eyes, and that the brothels should have been kept open. I thinks she has a point that the municipality basically closed its eyes, because they didn't help the women. They should have helped the women. But closing the brothels was a good thing. Abuse can never be tolerated.
But Dina Siegel closes her eyes. when she wants to keep the brothels open. This way society can absolve itself from the harm prostitution does to people, the constant sexual harassment prostitutes have to undergo, and the constant struggle for prostitutes to keep clients from doing sexual things they don't want. Yes, this is a lesson I have learned over the years by taking seriously some stunning revelations made by prostitutes who have presented themselves as strong and independent prostitutes. I explain more of it in my second farewell speech:
There are two types of prostitutes, those who acknowledge the harm done to them, and those who don't. Prostitutes is abuse, always, period. This is true for the prostitutes who have made the choice to work in the abusive sex industry themselves, and those who have been coerced into it.
Dina Siegel seems to cherry pick data from the interviews she had with prostitutes. She quotes two prostitutes whom she interviewed who said they liked their work (see page 63). One prostitute said (translated from Dutch into English): "I discovered my sexuality, my power, it is more than money. After the closure I just missed having sex more than anything". Another prostitute said: "Every evening, I felt as if I was standing on stage, men were lying at my feet [they adored her], they are queuing up to be allowed to touch me. This is a very strong feeling, it is power." Dina Siegel doesn't mention prostitutes who absolutely dislike their work. There are many, and I'm sure Dina Siegel has spoken with these women, but she refuses to mention them. Dina Siegel says it is unthinkable for many social workers, police officers, public servants and other 'moral entrepreneurs' that working in prostitution could be viewed as 'fun' or 'attractive'. I have to say, I like to fantasize myself about being a young female prostitution. It turns me on. But I know, in reality, having unwanted sex just to be able to feed your children, cannot be fun. And this is the situation of many prostitutes. I like to believe Dina Siegel's claims. It would be great if forced prostitution is not a big deal, and prostitutes have no problems with their occupation. But I rationally know it is not true.
Although I know that prostitution is always abusive, after all those years of studying the sex industry, I haven't figured out how big the prevalence of forced prostitution truly is. In the past I made the false distinction between forced and voluntary prostitution. Shortly after I started to visit prostitutes many years ago, I was shocked by the stories of forced prostitution, and I wanted to know if there were ways to figure out how to avoid forced prostitutes. Unfortunately the data is very contradictory. There are some eyewitnesses, such as prostitutes, police officers, and social workers, who say that forced prostitution is very prevalent. But when vice inspectors are making routine inspections in red light districts, all the prostitutes say they work voluntarily in prostitution, even in areas where abusive pimps were known to be very active (such as the notorious Saban Baran and his pimp gang on de Wallen in Amsterdam). There are even prostitutes who say that it is impossible to work independently in prostitution, and when pimps notice that you work independently, they won't stop harassing you. I have asked several prostitutes how big the prevalence is of forced prostitution among their colleagues. The answers they give differ so much from each other, that it is impossible to draw conclusions. Read some interviews I had with prostitutes here:
Some pimps have been prosecuted and sentenced, who forced women to work in the Zandpad area, and this includes Saban Baran and some of his gang members. I think you can safely assume forced prostitution did happen in that area. Still Dina Siegel's did make a bold claim in an interview that there was no forced prostitution at all!!! But we can simply put that aside. I cannot really dismiss the claim that forced prostitution is relatively rare there. I have my reasons to assume that it does, because many Eastern European prostitutes work there. And there are many eyewitness reports who say the the vast majority of the Eastern European prostitutes are in the power of pimps, human traffickers and madams. But I also must admit that the vast majority of the Eastern European prostitutes know they will be working in prostitution, but I see this as forced prostitution anyway. Read more about Eastern European prostitutes here:
Above all, there are many eyewitness reports who claim that most Dutch prostitutes in window prostitutes have entered prostitution because some guys forced or manipulated them into it. Read about it here on my blog:
I think het Zandpad is not immune from that. But I have to admit, there is no solid proof. When you ask a prostitute directly if she is forced, she will almost always say she works voluntarily and independently in prostitution. I have spoken with the Christian social workers Frits Rouvoet and Tanja Blok, who know a lot of prostitutes in several red light district, especially de Wallen in Amsterdam. I asked them if prostitutes admit that they are coerced, and I referred to several police raids in the Netherlands in several red light districts during which the police took many prostitutes to the municipality hall, in which all the prostitutes said they worked voluntarily in prostitution. Tanja Blok said, of course not! Of course they are not going to say they are coerced. Frits Rouvoet said to me, if a person rings your doorbell, will you tell him straight in the face that you are a sex addict? They told that it could take years for a prostitute to realize that she actually was coerced, it is difficult to acknowledge it even to themselves.
If you look at research reports then you indeed notice that no prostitute will say she is coerced at the moment she is interviewed. Some will say they were coerced into prostitution in the past, or she notices it among other prostitutes she knows, but she will never admit she is coerced at this moment. This is something peculiar, but it makes it almost impossible to estimate how many forced prostitutes there actually are. It is theoretically possible that all prostitutes are coerced, they only don't admit it. Or some prostitutes lie that they have been forced into prostitution in the past, and that actually non of them were coerced in the first place. It is all theoretically possible. I just don't know. This is very frustrating if you want to be a noble visitor of prostitutes. You don't know what the truth is. Are you harming a person, or aren't you? My current opinion is that you are actually harming a person when you visit a prostitute, because of the unintended revelations by some 'happy hookers' about being constantly sexually harassed.
Now, the basis why Dina Siegel believes there was no or hardly any forced prostitution on het Zandpad, was because she interviewed 30 prostitutes who have worked there, and none of them could name one example of a forced prostitute they actually knew personally and who worked on het Zandpad. Above all, she has interviewed several social workers and police officers, and she says that when they say there is a lot of coercion on het Zandpad, they believe this because of a 'gut feeling', and not because they know for sure. I must say that if I take the example of Frits Rouvoet, I'm willing to believe that is true. He says around 60-70% of the prostitutes are coerced, but when you look at his descriptions on his blog of prostitutes he meets, you don't get this image at all. Granted, their situations are dire and they tell horrible stories of poverty and deprivation, but of only a few you could actually think they are coerced by a third person or third persons. I told that to him, and I asked him why he thought so many prostitutes were coerced, but he referred to his blog to find the answer! I write more about him here on my blog:
I have chatted online with an ex-prostitute once. She was forced to work on de Wallen in Amsterdam, in the Sint Annenkwartier in particular, approximately in 2005, and it lasted approximately half a year. She believed around 75-80% of the prostitutes who worked there were coerced. You can find my conversation with her here:
I asked this young woman how she exactly knew so many of the women were coerced. She answered (translated by me from Dutch into English):
That's a tough one. You know, when I walk on the street I could point to pimps, I can say to you who are the errand boys, I can say from who you can get drugs. It is something what you start to see. Plus, in addition to this, is that when the same boy steps inside as many as 10 times in one day, day in day out, then you know enough. When girls are picked up (it is just as if they can't walk to the car themselves!!!) I recognise it because of these things. Just sit on the pavement of the bulldog a couple of days during the summer, in front of the dollebegeine [Dollebegijnensteeg] then you can exactly look into it [into the alley]. You will see that there is a pattern.Now, you see, that she cannot truly prove all these women are forced. It is a gut feeling, because she finds it strange that these same weird guys visit and collect the prostitutes so often. Dina Siegel's claim would be that she is just prejudiced. She cannot know so many women are really forced.
To return to the 30 prostitutes who say they know of no forced prostitute on het Zandpad, I am a bit wary when prostitutes say there is no coercion, because first of all, that's exactly what forced prostitutes are known to do, and second of all, in this particular case, many prostitutes were not happy when they were kicked out of their brothels. There are some pending lawsuits to open the brothels again, and it is absolutely in the interest of these particular prostitutes not to reveal anything negative about het Zandpad, and the brothel owners. And many of these prostitutes have worked on het Zandpad for many, many years, also during periods some forced prostitutes have worked, and they must have seen it. Dina Siegel has mainly interviewed prostitutes who were older than 30. Only 4 when 30 or younger. Often forced prostitutes are young women, I have noticed. Forced prostitutes are often in their late teens, early twenties. I made a complete statistical analysis of it, and I have written about it on my blog:
My estimate is that more than 75% of the analyzed forced prostitutes are younger than 24. And it must be said that many prostitutes on het Zandpad are generally somewhat older than for instance the prostitutes on de Wallen. I have noticed by analyzing reviews written by clients that the average age of prostitutes on het Zandpad is around 30 (in the period 2005-2008), and the brothel owners have applied a minimum age limit of 21. Brothel owner Wegra has published a report themselves in 2011, called Het Zandpad - In het juiste perspectief (you can download a presentation here), in which they estimate the average age of the prostitutes who worked in their brothels to be almost 34. Most prostitutes (66%) are Western European according to them, and 30% are Eastern European. The average age of the Western European prostitutes is above 35, and the average age of Eastern European prostitutes is above 27. This suggests that the extent of forced prostitution shouldn't be overestimated on het Zandpad, but it could also just be that many older prostitutes don't reveal themselves as being coerced, while perhaps many actually are. I don't know.
The women could make some bold claims according to Dina Siegel. One Latin American prostitute (see page 70) believed that Eastern European prostitutes perhaps had pimps. But she couldn't name any examples, and she didn't see any pimps. Different ethnic groups of prostitutes had no contacts with each other. They intentionally avoid each other. Prostitutes adhere to negative stereotypes about other ethnic groups of prostitutes. Eastern European prostitutes dislike the Roma prostitutes, who allegedly work without condoms a lot, and who are allegedly dirty. Prostitutes could ironically pick up these negative stereotypes from the media.
There are multiple proprietors of brothels on het Zandpad. Wegra is the largest and owns more than 70% of the boats (other smaller brothel owners are for instance Engrapol and Olifant). Wegra didn't allow women who were accompanied by men. That is what the women also say. But according to one brothel operator (see page 75), during the nineties (1997), business was being done with Albanian and Turkish men who rented the boats from the proprietors. Tough guys roamed around het Zandpad who collected money. Since 1 January 2000, there was a new brothel operator who sent away the tough guys, and who improved matters. The prostitutes are generally satisfied with the brothel owners, and the staff members of the brothel owners, who behave politely and always look you in the face.
The journalist Hendrik Jan Korterink was approached by one guy called Hans, who was active in the 'regulating' sector of het Zandpad. Read it here:
The article is called Dinsdag 5 juli: Doodsexplosie Hoofddorp: ongeluk?; De romantiek van het Zandpad. Hans responds to the claim that it was impossible for a particular Bulgarian forced prostitute to earn 1,4 million euro. Hans described Het Zandpad this way (translated by me from Dutch into English):
I don't know what the Bulgarian [woman] looks like, but those Bulgarian girls who worked on het Zandpad at that time were stunningly beautiful and earned on average between 600 and 1000 guilders per day [between 270 and 450 euro] per 12 hours. They worked in shifts and were monitored the whole time by two men who did nothing other than to drive little circles day and night. They were relieved 6 o'clock in the morning, and then the next shift could start.
You shouldn't believe that 600 guilders, 50 guilders per fuck are 12 clients, there were clients who stayed the whole night, clients who fell in love, clients with special wishes, too crazy to mention what kind of strange types walked around there. They pay a lot more. I have experienced so much during those two years that I could write a book. What an awful world, the world of prostitution and this is all condoned in the Netherlands.Hans is not mentioned in Dina Siegel's book.
Dina Siegel and the prostitutes don't mention any of the claims that some staff members of the brothel owners demanded 'key-money', if women wanted to rent rooms. So the women had to pay individual staff members on top of the rent they paid to the brothel owners, a form of extortion. This was one of the reasons the municipality closed the brothels. Dina Siegel doesn't seem to ask the women about it, and the women don't seem to mention it.
That prostitutes have to pay key-money is also confirmed by Sietske Altink (a former Red Thread operative) on her website here:
She refers to complaints about het Zandpad collected by de Rode Draad (Red Thread). The complaints about the key-money were related to incidents in 1997 and 2003. She also tells for instance that in 2001 the Red Thread spoke with social workers who had contact with prostitutes on the Zandpad. According to the social workers, "third persons" arrange things for prostitutes. Employees of the brothel owners also intimidate the prostitutes, and intervene when a client complains (on behalf of the client). Prostitutes sometimes are fired without a reason, while at the same time they don't get the money back which they had paid in advance. Women also complain about the excessive rents, and the fact that they have to pay extra for rooms with air-conditioning. In 2008 prostitutes complain that they are harassed by Bulgarian men. In 1997 women complain that certain taxi drivers work for Wegra, and these taxi drivers interrogate the women about the earnings. In 1997 the women also complain about Moroccans who extort the women.
Dina Siegel doesn't mention the complaints of prostitutes mentioned by Sietske Altink. Caja van Tolie has said on twitter that many of the claims by Sietske Altink are bullshit.
One of the prostitutes who Dina Siegel interviewed was Caja van Tolie, also known as Sabrina. Dina Siegel calls her S10 in her book. Caja van Tolie claims that forced prostitution mainly happened prior to 1998, and that it is rare today. What is interesting is that Caja van Tolie personally knew a forced prostitute on het Zandpad, whose pimp has been convicted. She worked right next to this woman. So, we can again tackle one claim of Dina Siegel that prostitutes on het Zandpad don't know of any forced prostitute. Dina Siegel doesn't mention it in her book, Caja van Tolie told me about it on twitter. But Caja van Tolie says that this prostitute told her she worked voluntarily in prostitution, she wasn't forced. Caja van Tolie also says that this woman falsely accused her husband of forced prostitution. But I find the case of the forced prostitute very convincing. One of the most important reason is that this man pulled off the same trick with two women, who tell the same story of how they were brought from Morocco the the Netherlands to marry him, after which they were forced into prostitution by him. You can read about their cases here on my blog:
and here (in this post I talk about how clients described the woman who worked next to Caja):
I know of an ex-prostitute who worked on het Zandpad (in 2006 and 2007), after several years of working on de Wallen in Amsterdam. She says nearly all prostitutes she knows of were coerced, just like herself. She claims that the few who work independently all were initially forced into prostitution, and they often are older women. She also says that this is also the case on het Zandpad. She said the brothel owners on het Zandpad didn't have warm ties with the pimps like the brothel owners of the Wallen had, but they didn't do much about forced prostitution either. She says that as an outsider it isn't immediately obvious that a prostitute is coerced. She doesn't blame clients for not knowing. You can only know it when you are able to look behind the scenes. She said that forced prostitutes are often silent about their ordeal because they have to be careful what they say, even to other prostitutes. The pimps could take revenge. I asked her if there is some kind of collective oath of secrecy when 30 Zandpad-prostitutes say they personally know of no forced prostitutes. She said yes, because did Saban Baran's women tell the truth when the police made routine visits to check their passports? She doesn't believe that the situation has magically improved, like Caja van Tolie has claimed once. And she believes that the pimps have merely adapted to the new rules. She says, at first the pimps were allowed to collect the keys of the window brothels, but then it wasn't allowed anymore, and the girls had to do it themselves. At first the pimps were allowed to enter the window brothels, but then it wasn't allowed anymore, so they stayed outside, etc..
Her revelations are shocking. On the other hand, she surely doesn't know all prostitutes on de Wallen and het Zandpad, and it is theoretically possible that she moved within a small circle of prostitutes and pimps, giving her the impression that nearly all prostitutes are coerced, while in reality this might not be true. But unfortunately, we will never know. Perhaps she is right. You cannot prove it, but you also cannot disprove it.
I want to add that this woman is not an abolitionist like I am today. It is interesting that she is actually against the closure of brothels, even on het Zandpad of which she says there was so much forced prostitution. She believes it is better if it all happens above ground, according to her. Closing brothels would mean, out of sight out of mind, in her opinion. I find this is a very strange opinion.
Some prostitutes have appeared in the media who also have claimed that nearly all prostitutes are forced on het Zandpad. Unfortunately, I didn't accurately record the sources at that time. Once source was a Moroccan prostitute who was interviewed for a ladies' magazine at the end of the nineties. The other appeared on tv, on the channel Nederland 2, in the television program Max en Katrien, on 12 October 2006. She was named Lotte in the program, and she also was forced to work in prostitution on de Wallen and on het Zandpad. After Catherine Keyl asked how many prostitutes are forced, Lotte said that you could see it. She said that of every 100 prostitutes, 2 are perhaps working voluntarily in prostitution, and all the others are coerced. More here:
Annet Koopsen, who is a laywer and has defended victims of forced prostitution, has said (in Dutch) that victims tell her that all prostitutes have a pimp, and the pimps decides when to work and where the money goes. This is not specifically related to het Zandpad by the way. You could find the original video here but it is gone:
http://www.rtvnh.nl/nieuws/51981/Exploitant+van+de+Achterdam+gaat+met+pensioen (RTV Noord Holland, 20 December 2010, "Exploitant van de Achterdam gaat met pensioen", below you could originally find the video with the name: "10 minuten over de Achterdam", but it's gone)
Some other prostitutes have also said there is lots of coercion. I wrote about it here:
These prostitutes are mentioned in Nulmeting prostitutiebeleid (November 2006, Afdeling Bestuursinformatie Sector Bestuurs- en Concernzaken Gemeente Utrecht. Writers: Jeroen van der Zweth, Geisje Hoetjes, Irene Boersema). Unfortunately this report cannot be found online anymore. But some prostitutes who pressed charges reportedly said up to 95% of the prostitutes are coerced. It is not clear if they specifically mean het Zandpad, but I assume that they do. Dina Siegel mentions the report (on page 40 of her book), but she doesn't refer to the fact that also some prostitutes say there is lots of coercion (apart from some police officers who say most prostitutes are coerced).
In the last blog post I mentioned, I also mention another report: Signalen Mensenhandel Utrecht (May 29th 2008, Afdeling Bestuursinformatie Sector Bestuurs- en Concernzaken Gemeente Utrecht). And it can still be found online, here:
Signalen Mensenhandel Utrecht
I have translated a bit of the report from Dutch into English (I made some mistakes here, but I leave it this way, I want to follow the strangely written Dutch text as closely as possible):
Also volunteers of clerical organizations see strikingly many frightened Eastern European girls. Volunteers of different clerical organizations are often active for years already on the Zandpad. They pass by the houseboats and try to get in contact with the women. They also come on the Zandpad during the night.Dina Siegel also refers to these passages in her book (on page 40), but she immediately dismisses these signs of coercion in her book. Perhaps the social workers and the police are right that they find it fishy that some clearly frightened, nervous, skinny young Eastern European accompanied by weird guys show up in legal prostitution in the Netherlands? Dina Siegel rejects it. In her opinion, only the cases which are absolutely proven should be accepted. Everything else is just based on 'suspicions, stereotypes and imagination' (see page 42). She is only willing to accept that between 4 and 8 prostitutes were actually coerced on het Zandpad (see page 45), and I have the impression that she really doesn't acknowledge these cases either, because she has totally denied the existence of forced prostitution on het Zandpad in a radio-interview. I find her a bit too critical. It is known that forced prostitutes don't easily speak out about being forced, like for instance vice inspector Henk Werson has noticed in his book De Fatale Fuik. You can read more about him on my blog, here:
They encounter strikingly many young girls from Eastern Europe who barely speak the Dutch language. Girls make a frightened impression and are often accompanied by ‘vague’ male types who show controlling behaviour (listening in etc.) and also physically obstruct the volunteers to reach the girls. The population of the houseboats varies quickly, prostitutes indicate that they often travel for their work and are not bound to one workplace. During conversations with the women on three Friday evenings, one of the clerical organizations encounters two Eastern European women where they perceive the situation as very fishy (looking bad, sad, closed). They speak on these evenings approximately 40 women in total, among who many women not from Eastern Europe (many from Santo Domingo).
The HAP [Huiskameraanloop Prostituees = Living room for prostitutes] saw 874 women on the Zandpad in 2007 [note at the bottom of that page: “per day the number of unique visitors is registered. Women who visit the HAP more often than once (for example a couple of days later), are registered once again. The number 874 doesn’t concern the number of unique persons on a yearly basis”]. In the second half of 2007, 47 women came on their own initiative to the HAP to talk about compulsion (among themselves or others) [I translated it as 'compulsion', but you could also say coercion, or force]. While doing outreaching work, the HAP sees per round some dozens of women. Among half of them they place question marks. Within this group they see many Eastern European women. Striking is also a quickly varying population of ‘very young’ [piepjonge] Bulgarian girls, of whom many originate from Alkmaar (they speak of a ‘Bulgarian wave from Alkmaar’). This group makes a frightened impression, show nervous behaviour, are often way too skinny and after articulating the suspicion of maltreatment ‘they clam up’.
But... I have visited 6 prostitutes on het Zandpad myself, all Eastern European women. They seemed self-confident to me, except for one young Hungarian woman who indeed behaved like the social workers describe some prostitutes. I have warned the police about her strange and nervous behaviour. I know of another client who also warned the police, and he said they sent a community police officer to her who had a chat with her. And that's all. This woman still works in prostitution, but this time in the Geleenstraat. From what I understand, her behaviour has improved. I have met 2 very young Romanian prostitutes on het Zandpad who were very intelligent. They were friendly and talkative. I have met a very friendly Albanian prostitute on het Zandpad. Two others (one Romanian and one Bulgarian woman) were a bit grumpy, but they seemed very self-confident anyway. And I have met a very polite businesslike prostitute from the Czech Republic on het Zandpad.
The gang of Saban Baran had multiple women working on het Zandpad. I wrote about it here:
And there are some descriptions of how the gang forced women to work on het Zandpad, on rechtspraak.nl (the events typically took place in the period 2004-2006). Read it here:
It is described how one pimp belonging to the gang of Saban Baran, drives circles in the Zandpad area to keep an eye on multiple women who worked there. The gang is described as playing an important role on de Wallen in Amsterdam, and het Zandpad in Utrecht. One pimp is even described as appearing on het Zandpad to arrange workplaces for women, which suggests he had connections with some of the brothel owners. All this is ignored by Dina Siegel.
Caja van Tolie has said she didn't see pimps on het Zandpad. As I said before, I have visited this area as a client myself several times, at the end of 2011. It was one of my periods during which I believed that forced prostitution is not a big deal, and that all the prostitutes are okay with their work. I have seen some of the videos that she did for RTV UTRECHT (you can easily find these on youtube if you type in the search terms: Sabrina and Zandpad). She says that their is no forced prostitution on the Zandpad, and she never sees pimps. Women come and go by themselves, they are not collected or dropped off by men. Also the people who filmed her said they didn't see anything special.
I notice that in the morning and afternoon, the Zandpad seems tranquil and peaceful. There is nothing strange to be seen. The swans swim under the bridges which connect the prostitution boats to the sidewalk. It looks really beautiful. This is the time of the day during which Caja van Tolie worked. So in that respect, I give her the benefit of the doubt when she says she sees no pimps. I have to say that the very frightened Hungarian woman worked during the afternoon, so she is the exception, but I saw no pimps. I have noticed when there is a change of shifts, the women leave in groups. You see like four women step into the same car, and one woman takes the steering wheel. I once saw a white man in a car dropping off an older Thai woman. All of this happened during the afternoon.
During the evening, the atmosphere changes. Men can be seen who I associate with the prostitutes. I once saw some muscular Turkish type of man leaning on the fence of one of these bridges. He communicated with one of the prostitutes. She showed him the way into the brothel, as if she wanted to show how everything works inside. I don't think he was a client. They interacted with each other as if they belonged together.
I noticed some young Moroccan men driving circles with their cars around het Zandpad. There are multiple boys in one car. Once I saw a group of three Moroccan young men step out of their car. They walked broad-shouldered with the three of them to one young woman behind the window. She was talking on her smartphone. She opened her window and she gave something to them. They walked away again. I was a bit flabbergasted when I saw this. On de Wallen in Amsterdam, the pimps don't show themselves so openly anymore. They did in the past, but nowadays you really have the watch out if you even bring a sandwich to a prostitute. Men who constantly circle around prostitutes are not tolerated anymore in Amsterdam.
Once I was walking on the sidewalk, and around 10 young Moroccans stepped out of their cars. They nearly knocked me over. They started to harass the prostitutes on het Zandpad, pushing on their windows. I saw one of these guys trying to pull open the window of a young woman. It was locked. He screamed to her: "Je bent gek!!! Wat moet je?! Wat moet je?! Neuken moet je!" (which means approximately: "You are crazy!!! What must you do?! What must you do?! Fucking, is what you must do!". She shyly said, yes, yes. And then she opened the door, and he went in. Unfortunately, I didn't come up with the idea to notify the police. I also didn't think about a way to identify her. I didn't look at the number of the boat. It is a pity, but it took several months before I realized I could have in fact called the police.
It is possible that I totally misinterpreted the situation. Perhaps the men I saw weren't pimps at all. Perhaps they were just kids, even clients, who think they are tough. I asked Caja van Tolie about it on twitter, and she says these boys are not pimps. She said not all clients are nice, and these boys were just rascals. I wouldn't be so sure. I think these boys were pimps. But, alas, I cannot prove it. It is something that I assume. A 'gut feeling'! I cannot know what the exact relationship is between those men and the women. Perhaps it is more benign than I think. But I am afraid it is not.
But even if these boys are just some bunch of hooligans, the situation is still strange that they operate so freely without anyone interfering. It seemed as if they felt unimpeded. I saw no Zandpad security. There are cameras hanging everywhere on het Zandpad. But apparently, nobody makes use of it.
I think that the other prostitutes also regularly see this happen. Perhaps they use the same strategy, like Caja does, just to pass it off as something else: these men are not pimps, just some rascals, some nasty clients, a nuisance. But, I cannot be sure myself. Theoretically it is all possible. Dina Siegel does mention some residents in her book (on page 67) who complain about young Moroccans who drive little circles with their cars all night long along the Zandpad, while playing loud music, who don't pay 50 euro to the prostitutes, but to Texaco. And one prostitute (on page 75) does mention boys who kept driving little circles with their cars, but she doesn't notice forced prostitution. These boys are apparently not seen as pimps.
Another woman (one page 76) said that she saw men driving with cars with women in the passenger seat, and they went to the little office of the brothel owner (Wegra) to rent a brothel room, but she saw that the women were always refused. Another prostitute cannot imagine that there is forced prostitution on het Zandpad because everything is so rigorously supervised. Another prostitute does acknowledge the presence of 3-5 Eastern European pimps, but she finds it no reason to close all the brothels. Another woman says that she has seen pimps at the gas station, very close to het Zandpad. A prostitute (on pages 78-79) has noticed one single case of (what apparently seemed to be) forced prostitution during the four years she has worked on het Zandpad, she said (translated by me from Dutch in to English):
Yes, a very small young girl started working next to me. We called her kaboutertje [little dwarf/goblin]. She was really timid. I also wonder if she really was of age. She worked next to the German [woman]... It was really noisy [thin-walled], so you heard a lot. Kaboutertje was visited by men who beat her up. I reported that the girl received beatings. I talked with the community police officer and told that she received more beatings than food. In the winter, she came with plastic shoes in the snow! I also talked about it with the [police] superintendent. Everybody listens to you and nods, but they do nothing about it.
Well, if you see the same little car parked across the street and you see such a man entering the room of one person five or six times a day, then it seems very implausible that he is a client... These weren't clients, because in the beginning they were driving around het Zandpad with Hungarian and Bulgarian license plates. This changed later, that they didn't come to the [Zand]pad anymore or that they were driving around in cars with Dutch license plates... We reported it to Wegra once, that girl who received more beatings than food, we obviously could hear it. But we obviously also notified it to the human trafficking [police] unit... you report the license plate numbers, you report everything and they say: "we have it under investigation" and subsequently... nothing. I subsequently left Wegra, I started working for another business, and that girl, they simply removed her there and at a certain moment she just was located right under the bridge also at Wegra, the same girl... And we actually did speak with her, with the community police officer. But this person did nothing.In my opinion, what this woman says is actually a confirmation that Wegra allowed forced prostitutes to work on het Zandpad. But the police also did nothing. They are also to blame. This could just be one of the secret signs of misconduct by the brothel owners which were collected in the secret report about het Zandpad. Dina Siegel doesn't seem to realize it.
I have wondered years ago if forced prostitution in the Netherlands is declining in scope over the years. I did this in this post on my blog:
As I have said before, nearly all prostitutes say that they work voluntarily in prostitution. This was also noticed by the Dutch sexologist Ine Vanwesenbeeck. But, some say that they have been forced into prostitution in the past. I have noticed as far back as 2007 that the percentage of prostitutes of any given sample who say they have been forced in the past, is slowly dropping. In the book Prostitutes' well-being and risk (1994), Ine Vanwesenbeeck mentions two samples of prostitutes she interviewed who worked across different sectors of the Dutch sex industry. In one sample of 60 (mainly Dutch) women, 43% had been forced into prostitution. In the other sample, of the 127 women, 29% have been forced.
Now, fast forward to the year 2000 to a report also written by Ine Vanwesenbeeck, called Er gaat iets veranderen in de prostitutie (2000, Liesbeth Venicz, Ine Vanwesenbeeck), and of the 105 interviewed women, 24 women (23%) had been forced. And fast forward to 2006, another report was written, this time by other researchers, called Evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod; de sociale positie van prostituees 2006 (H.S. Dekker, G.H.J. Homburg, W.R. Tap). And of the 354 prostitutes interviewed for this report, 8% indicated they had been forced into prostitution. Fast forward again to 2014, and you have this report Sekswerkers aan het woord - De sociale positie van sekswerkers in Nederland in 2014 (Y. Bleeker, L. Heuts, M. Timmermans, G. Homburg). Now, of 364 interviewed prostitutes, 4% says that they had been forced into prostitution. (The percentage was highest in window prostitution, 8% had been forced).
So the idea is, is forced prostitution in decline? I think you cannot draw this conclusion. You can only say that the percentage of prostitutes who say they have been previously coerced has dropped over the years. It could be that they are less eager to admit it. Above all, in the study Sekswerkers aan het woord - De sociale positie van sekswerkers in Nederland in 2014, almost half of the 364 interviewed women (46%) thinks that most prostitutes have to hand over at least a part of their income to a pimp! That means, in my opinion, you can prove whatever you want. Although all prostitutes say they work voluntarily in prostitution, many do think that most prostitutes actually have pimps. They don't admit they have these pimps themselves, but they say many others have. What to believe? I think Dina Siegel will say these women just believe in media stereotypes, urban legends.
Dina interviewed a policeman in her book (page 41 and page 98, she calls him P3). He says a great many prostitutes on the Zandpad have a pimp. He supports the closure of the brothels 100%, because he observed a lot of abuses. Lots of the information of the police was used in a secret report that the municipality used to close the brothels. He felt a victim of the police's own success. Looking back he said that they lost supervision over the women, and he regrets that. Unfortunately, Dina Siegel doesn't mention anything more about this important source. This man is the absolute proof that her claims cannot be right. It is unfortunate that we cannot gain more insights about this secret report.
The prostitutes who worked on het Zandpad seem to romanticize het Zandpad, but it could be that Dina Siegel carefully selects the quotes which confirm this idea. Nothing else is better than working on het Zandpad. Prostitutes have tried other window prostitution areas, or clubs, or tried working in their own homes. But they don't like the clients of the other areas. Clients on het Zandpad are mainly polite business men and friendly locals. The earnings are higher on het Zandpad. Prostitutes were really sad when the brothels along het Zandpad closed. Some were crying right after the closures. Some ended up in a depression, angry that they lost their regular clients. Some ended up having deep financial problems because they couldn't make enough money anymore. I notice that many simply have no other options other than working in prostitution. The municipality has offered to give them welfare, but the prostitutes are too proud to live off the avails of the government. They rather work in prostitution. Some tried to find other work, but they lack the skills, they don't speak the right languages, or they are afraid to say they have worked in prostitution all those years.
Dina Siegel doesn't examine the idea to compensate prostitutes, or to help prostitutes to find other work. She only looks at the option to keep brothels open, and allow prostitutes to keep on working in prostitution. She points to sources about prostitution centuries ago to prove that prostitution will never disappear, and that closing brothels will make working in prostitution unsafe. I have written about prostitution in ancient times on my blog here:
It turns out many of those legal or tolerated brothels were not so safe at all. The madams kept prostitutes in debt bondage. Not that the circumstances of other workers were so good by the way. Prostitutes didn't have a big wardrobe with clothes like people have now today. Madams abused this situation be confiscating the clothes of prostitutes. Prostitutes wore very expensive dresses which were initially bought by the madams, and the prostitutes had to pay off high debts for these dresses.
At the end, I don't agree with Dina Siegel, she contradicts herself, and she too easily dismisses true signs of forced prostitution, passing it off as prejudice. She seems to hold back information proving her wrong, and she tries to romanticize prostitution, ignoring the people who absolutely dislike this kind of work.
Now farewell, I hope I can deal with my own sexuality in the future and live a happy loving life, and I wish all the people and prostitutes in the world all the luck and love in the world, and I hope everybody will live long, prosperous lives, and there is nothing more important than love, and everybody should love each other and be loved, and this is what I wish for everybody.
Even Cliente X.
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