Legal prostitutes to be at least 21 years of age

Prostitutes have to be at least 21 years of age. This is Minister Hirsch Ballin's (the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Justice) proposal to the Lower House in an amendment to the legislative proposal already before the Lower House concerning the regulation of prostitution and sex businesses. Persons aged 21 are better able to make a well-considered decision about working as a prostitute than people aged 18; they are also more resilient as regards handling and negotiating with clients. Moreover, they will more often have finished an education and therefore economically less dependent on work in prostitution. Municipalities will have to conduct a substantive interview with each prostitute at the time of their registration or extension thereof.

Initially, the Dutch government chose an age limit of 18, in view of the risk that prostitutes aged between 18 and 21 would disappear into illegality. Minister Hirsch Ballin wants to combat this with strict checks and making illegal prostitutes, operators and their clients punishable.

Prostitutes will have to register in a national register. Upon registration, an interview has to be conducted with each prostitute concerning the risks of the business, health care and assistance, social security, insurance and possibilities to leave the world of prostitution. During such an interview, any abuses can be discussed and forwarded to the police and welfare services.

Registration will only be possible in 25 to 35 larger communities throughout the Netherlands in view of the fact that conducting this type of interview requires the necessary expertise on the part of the civil servants. Registered prostitutes will receive a pass with their picture and registration number (but without their name). Clients have to check whether they are dealing with a legal prostitute by means of the pass. It is the intention that clients can establish via the Internet whether the registration number advertised by the prostitute actually exists.

There is a taboo on prostitution although it is legal in the Netherlands. Anonymity and privacy are therefore very important for prostitutes. Only a small number of supervision officials and the police will have access to the national register of prostitutes. The register will also not be linked to other IT systems (such as the Tax and Customs Administration). The details of prostitutes who retire are immediately removed from the register.

Brothels and other sex businesses (clubs, escort services, sex cinemas, massage parlours) are required to have a licence. Municipalities determine via licences where and how many brothels or other sex businesses there will be. As regards brothels and escort companies, a municipality can elect not to allow any company, the so-called zero option. The municipality does need to have supportive arguments for choosing this option that are related to public order, safety or public health. Moral arguments should not play a role.

The licences for prostitution companies will include conditions on health, safety and the right to self-determination of prostitutes. This will strengthen their position. Prostitution companies will require a permanent address with a fixed telephone line for a licence. The licences of escort services will be entered in a national registers which will create supervision of this part of the industry.

Clients who make use of illegal prostitution will become punishable because they maintain a type of prostitution where forms of abuse and exploitation can easily occur. The prohibition on the operation of a prostitution company without a licence and registration duty for prostitution creates a clear division between legal and illegal prostitution. That division is also recognisable for clients.

The act is intended to regulate the prostitution industry, not to obstruct the legal part of the industry. The new act is also intended to make a contribution to combating abuses such as coercion, abuse and human trafficking.

Punishment of violations

  • Prostitutewithout registration or working in a brothel without a licence: A fine of at most 380 euros
  • Clients who visit unregistered prostitutes or unlicensed brothels: A fine of at most 7,600 euros
    or a term of imprisonment of at most 6 months
  • Sex business without a licence or violation of the statutory rules:
  1. Administrative approach
  2. Economic offence

- crime (in the event of intent): a fine of at most 18,500 euros or a term of imprisonment of two years
- offence (guilt): a fine of at most 18,500 euros or a term of imprisonment of at most 6 months