Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Dutch prostitutes offered 'whore miles'

Prostitutes in the Dutch city of Eindhoven are to be awarded "credits" in return for good behaviour under a new scheme to encourage them to abandon the oldest profession.





The prostitutes will receive so-called "street miles" that they can use to acquire free designer clothes or furniture, provided they take up an offer by the city council to take steps leading to a career change and a safer lifestyle.



"We needed to come up with incentives that these women might latch on to," said Veronique Beurskens of Eindhoven council, who is leading a drive to rid the city of street prostitution.



Eindhoven's designated sex work zone is due to close by 2011. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are slowly shutting down their red light districts, but Eindhoven is unusual in pioneering material incentives to tempt women into thinking about an economic alternative to prostitution. Many of the city's sex workers are also heroin addicts. The city will fund assertiveness classes to help sex workers sever ties with their pimps, as well as workshops, advice and courses on how to find new jobs.



"For every step they take to get out of their trade, they'll get vouchers that they can cash in to go shopping. They will be assigned a coach, whose first job will be to help them muster enough courage to stand up for themselves and break free from the trade," said Ms Beurskens.



The council is also trying out several more outlandish ideas put forward by art students from the Eindhoven Design College. Some of the "dames", as they are known locally, have already been given a makeover involving designer clothes to boost their self-confidence. Another scheme in the pipeline is the creation of a fashion label conceived by the prostitutes themselves.



"This has worked well in Amsterdam, where the women have launched their own label and can make money from it. We have plenty of designers at the college who could show them how to get started and teach them about clothes-making," said Ms Beurskens.



But the initiative has been lampooned in the Dutch media, where some commentators have dubbed it the "whore miles" scheme. The plan is also receiving a lukewarm welcome among some prostitutes.



"This is fine if they actually want to move on to something else but some might not want to," said Metje Blaak from Red Thread, the Dutch Prostitutes' Union. "At the end of the day, this is a step towards making street prostitution illegal, and what will happen to the women then?"



She added that prostitutes do not easily make the switch to a normal nine-to-five job. "They often miss the adrenaline rush. They need work where they feel they are really achieving something."



Eindhoven is among many Dutch cities that are clamping down on the country's famously-liberal sex industry. Last year, Amsterdam began shutting down part of its red light district, a sprawling network of streets where prostitutes display themselves in shop windows lit by neon lights. The city is buying up scores of buildings currently housing the sex trade, with a view to closing down the windows. Many of the brothels are linked to racketeering, human trafficking and organised crime.



Permissive society: Holland's vice girls



*The Netherlands has around 25,000 prostitutes, half of whom are working illegally or come from outside Europe.



*There are 140 brothels in Amsterdam's red-light district and 500 prostitute display windows. They bring in around €100m (£77m) a year.



*It is legal for anyone over 18 to be a sex worker in Holland who is working voluntarily, but a crime to organise the prostitution of another – even with their permission.

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