responsible tourism

Responsible Tourism: Amsterdam's Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Through Peace Stamps, I hope to educate people on how to be more responsible tourists. Today, I want to talk about responsible tourism in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Part of Amsterdam's Red Light District

Part of Amsterdam's Red Light District

For about eight centuries Amsterdam’s Red Light District has been thriving.  As a legal venue of prostitution, the area attracts millions of tourists each year.  Many tourists choose to travel to Amsterdam to partake in activities that are illegal in their home countries.  But just because it is legal in Amsterdam does not mean it is ethical. 

Amsterdam’s city council has been trying to eradicate prostitution and revamp the Red Light District for years through Project 1012, but have failed because drugs and prostitution generate approximately 2.5 billion euros a year for The Netherlands.  A large majority of this income stems from tourists.  But what are the negative effects when taking advantage of the legal activities of Amsterdam’s Red Light District?

A Delayed Dead-End for the Prostitutes

Many of the prostitutes in Amsterdam’s Red Light District are poor Eastern European women that are in debt for one reason or another.  They choose to sell themselves to support themselves and their families instead of pursuing another source of income.  The average prostitute in Amsterdam is her own boss and makes about 200 to 1500 euros a day.  However, the average career of a prostitute only lasts through her 20s, due to the low demand for “older” women.  After a decade of prostitution these women find themselves right back where they started with no job, no money, no degree, and no career. 

Human Trafficking and Organized Crime

Although pimps are supposedly not present in the Red Light District, there is still evidence of human trafficking.  According to a few sources, there is evidence of illegal Russian organizations trafficking women to The Netherlands.  The women are often too afraid to go to the authorities for fear of what may happen to them or their families.  There are also men who will coerce the women to fall in love with them and then manipulate them into prostitution. 

Safety of the Women

 Although the brothels are equipped with security buttons in the rooms, police officers, security guards, and other methods to protect the women, there are still incidents of women being harmed by their customers.  With this type of business, women being harmed is inevitable.  While it is not all that common, any harm is too much in my opinion.

How to be a Responsible Tourist in Amsterdam

Although the Red Light District is what draws many tourists to Amsterdam, there are many other appeals of Amsterdam.  To be a more responsible tourist it is important to support the activities that leave the city better off than when you arrived. 

If you are looking to go to Amsterdam, I suggest renting a bike and touring the city.  There are millions of bikes around the city, which contribute to a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.  Renting a bike also allows you to experience the city’s beautiful architecture out in the open while getting a bit of exercising and creating no carbon impact.  Even the Red Light District has amazing architecture.  It is okay to experience the architecture but do not support the actions there.

There are thousands of charming cafes, pubs, and restaurants around Amsterdam.  If you get tired of the normal places in the heart of Amsterdam, there is the NDSM (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij) Ship Wharf only a ten minute ferry ride across the bay.  You can catch the ferry near the Amsterdam Central train station.  NDSM is an industrial area that has repurposed shipping containers into unique bars, cafes, and even housing for students and refugees.  It is a really amazing and unique area.  There is also wall art everywhere.  You can even get a picture with a unique version of the “iamsterdam” sign.

I amsterdam painting in NDSM

I amsterdam painting in NDSM

One of my favorite places was the Brouwerij ‘t IJ.  This brewery is inside an old windmill and serves some of the tastiest beer.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in an old windmill

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in an old windmill

Amsterdam is an amazing city that deserves all the tourism that comes its way.  I think it is important that we do not support these unethical traditions in hopes that the city can one day completely eliminate them.

Here’s to more responsible travels! xoxo