On Saturday Michiel and I decided to do a Red Light District Tour of Amsterdam. I have been wanting to do it for a while now so on Sunday evening we headed to the Prostitution Information Centre near the Oude Kerk (I think it’s the best place to go to actually learn about the Red Light District). We arrived early – the tour starts at 5pm, and only costs €15 each, so we had a look around the Museum where there was a lot of information about the history of prostitution in the Netherlands, and is in a former prostitute’s room so we could see the layout and how it worked.
Our tour guide was Mariska Majoor, the founder of the Prostitution Information Centre (PIC). She used to be a sex worker so she was very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. We started inside the centre, were Mariska told us that she thought it was really important that she created a place where people are able to ask questions about prostitution, and that the question most people wanted to know was “Why?” She told us the main motivating factor for sex workers was money. She told us that in her heyday she made 20,000-30,000 guilders per month. In today’s money (including inflation) it works out as between 15,500 and 23,500 pounds a month.
She got a lady who I would say was around 60 to sit in the window to give a quick demonstration on the kind of people to avoid (as a sex worker doesn’t have to open her door if she doesn’t want to), and it was very funny – the lady immediately started flirting with people without Mariske really telling her what to do so we were all laughing.
We went outside the PIC and she walked us around the red light district and explained to us the different areas – she said that to the North of the church is the more expensive area, but essentially all prostitutes name their own price, usually staring at around €50 for 15 minutes of contact, but she also said that you had to be very specific when negotiating a price. There are also different areas, where different types of prostitutes work. For example, there are South American women close to the church, there is a transgender area and there used to be a predominately Thai area. Now it’s not so rigid with the influx of Eastern European girls who work in different areas and don’t necessarily stick together.
We talked a lot about trafficking as it’s a subject which she doesn’t like, but a lot of people have questions about it. The government estimates that 80% of all prostitutes are trafficked and 20% are there of their own free will. She estimated the exact opposite – she said there are a lot of women who need money who go into it to get a better life for themselves and their children, and the government puts them in the same category as trafficked workers.
I thought that this tour was great because it’s done by someone who used to be a prostitute so she can answer all of your questions and is extremely passionate about her subject. I learnt so much more than I could write about and it’s definitely something I would recommend before the areas around the church disappear and it is confined to only one street in Amsterdam.
More information can be found on their website