Health and safety in the sex industry

Research has shown that over the past ten years the sex industry has improved in many ways. However, further measures are needed to create an industry in which sex workers can work in safety without risking their health, and to regulate the industry more effectively.

Victims of forced prostitution and human trafficking

Forced prostitution still occurs in this country. Women are sometimes lured to the Netherlands under false pretences and then forced to work as prostitutes. In other cases, the women know they will be working as prostitutes, but are exploited once they get here.

Dutch women can be victims of forced prostitution as well and sometimes Dutch teenage girls fall prey to so-called ‘Romeo pimps’ (known in Dutch as loverboys).

Government plans to tighten regulations in the sex industry

The government wants to prevent and tackle abuses in the sex industry. It has submitted a bill to regulate prostitution and combat abuses in the sex industry to the House of Representatives.

At the request of the Senate the bill has been amended. These are the main points of the amended bill:

  • Mandatory licencing

    Businesses in the sex industry – for instance sex clubs, brothels and escort agencies – will only be allowed to operate with a licence from the municipal authorities. The conditions for obtaining a licence will include a guarantee of sex workers’ health and safety. A commercial sex operation will only be given a licence if it has a fixed address and a telephone landline. To ensure that the rules are equally strict all over the country, the same conditions will essentially apply in every municipality.
  • Screening the owners of businesses in the sex industry

    The owners of commercial sex operations will be screened more thoroughly. Municipalities will do background checks on them. If an owner has previously been involved in human trafficking or if there are indications that they will probably not comply with the licencing conditions, their application for a licence will be denied.
  • Raising the minimum age for prostitutes

    The minimum age for prostitutes will be raised from 18 to 21. Clients will be liable to punishment if they engage the services of a prostitute under the age of 21. Business owners will be punishable if they employ a prostitute under the age of 21. Underage prostitutes themselves will not be punished.

This bill is currently being considered by the House of Representatives. It is not yet known when it will become law.

Cooperation on prostitution policy

Central government and local authorities are working together closely to tackle abuses in the sex industry and improve prostitutes’ position in society. There is a national programme to facilitate cooperation in this area. It addresses such issues as:

  • improving the social position of prostitutes;
  • supervision of commercial sex operations, and law enforcement when rules are violated.