Back to blog

Amsterdam’s First Female Mayor in 700 Years to Review Brothels

“Amsterdam,” the Netherlands capital that attracts over 18 million tourists every year, has become synonymous with prostitution. It’s difficult to think of this city without it conjuring up images of its world-infamous red light district—a place where men line up at scores of brothel doors to purchase and sexually exploit women who are advertised in windows like merchandise.

But there may be change on horizon because for the first time in the 700-year history of the city, a female mayor has been elected. In her first few months in office she has already signaled that she may be ready to disrupt the status quo when it comes to prostitution.

Bloomberg reports that new mayor Femke Halsema has noted, “with more than 370 windows displaying scantily-clad women jeered by drunk tourists and photo-taking oglers who dehumanize them, the area, one of the biggest tourist draws in the city, is no longer fitting for a modern city.”

Although she hasn’t yet committed to abolition, she has made clear that she recognizes the harms of prostitution and the way that the sex industry exploits the most vulnerable among us. “Too often now we see vulnerable foreign women behind windows,” she has said.

Because of this Femke is ready to undertake a special review of the city’s brothels in an effort to rebrand Amsterdam and attract a different kind of tourism—one based on the incredible beauty and rich cultural history of the city instead of its long-standing reputation as a hotbed of sexual exploitation.

Learn more about the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of Amsterdam in our documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.