Health and safety in the sex industry

Sex workers must be able to work in safety without risking their health. Central government seeks to help sex workers who suffer from institutional prejudice or would like to leave prostitution. The government also has plans for new regulations to tackle abuses in the sex industry. 

Abuses in the sex industry

Sex workers must be able to practise their trade in safety without risking their health. Currently this is not always possible, for example due to:

  • unsafe sex;
  • unhygienic and unsafe working environments;
  • forced prostitution and exploitation;
  • violence;
  • prejudice.

Prejudice about sex workers

Sex workers who work voluntarily in prostitution sometimes encounter prejudice from institutions such as the police, municipalities, other government bodies, banks or care institutions. Staff at these institutions sometimes wrongly assume for example that sex workers work in an environment that involves abuses such as crime or violence. This can make it harder for sex workers to gain access to services such as a business bank account. 

Help with submitting complaints

It can be difficult for sex workers to gain an overview of all the legislation and regulations that affect them, or to submit complaints. To deal with this problem, a national digital complaint portal is being established to help sex workers submit complaints about institutions. The portal is still being developed, but will be launched in 2021. Sex workers will be able to use it to get:

  • help and backing with complaints about institutions;
  • information and advice about their rights and obligations when submitting complaints.

The portal will be neutral, easily accessible and available to all sex workers, even those without permits. 

Support for sex workers who seek to leave prostitution

Sex workers who seek to leave prostitution sometimes encounter problems, such as:

  • gaps in their CVs;
  • difficulty in changing their income expectations and spending patterns;
  • personal problems like addiction or depression;
  • difficulty in getting used to life outside prostitution.

‘Leaving the life’ programmes are available for these sex workers, in which a coach helps them find other work, a new home or appropriate care. There are 18 municipalities that offer leaving the life programmes to sex workers in their region. These programmes fall under the Leaving the Life Programmes Decentralisation Grant (DUUP).

Government plans for new regulations in the sex industry

The government seeks to prevent and combat coercion and exploitation in the sex industry. To this end it has drafted a Sex Work Regulation Bill (WRS), which is still awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives. The main proposals in the bill are:

  • All sex workers and owners of businesses in the sex industry will be required to have a permit. This will enable municipalities to supervise the industry more effectively and to combat illegal prostitution.
  • The minimum age for permit holders will be 21.
  • Sex workers who work without a permit will be breaking the law, as will their clients and people who benefit from helping them to work.