Amsterdam’s Red Light District: Embracing Acceptance

I have been to Amsterdam four times now, and each time I have visited I have been completely overcome by the sense of acceptance and “Live and let live” that surrounds this city. Of course, when you have been brought up in a nation like the United Kingdom that embraces conformity and censors merely the mention of sex and drugs, this fascination is expected. Amsterdam is one of the most gorgeous cities I have seen, and I fall in love with its non-judgmental culture every single time.

The legalisation of prostitution is a widely debated subject but in Amsterdam it is seen as merely another job; the prostitutes pay rent on their rooms and pay tax, just like everyone else. The last time I visited Amsterdam, which was in October 2016, I took a trip to the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution, where I learned a lot about the working girls of the Red Light District (De Wallen).

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This museum is located on De Wallen itself, in one of the iconic 17th century canal houses. The museum is set up to mirror that of a typical Amsterdam prostitute’s working environment and as per the photo above, you get an opportunity to see what’s it’s like to sit in a window on the Red Light District. You can learn what these ladies’ lives are like, and how their safety can be ensured while they are working. Prostitution is looked at as the oldest profession in the world, but it is also one of the most dangerous in the world, too. Red Light Secrets claims these rules as the “Ten Commandments of Prostitution”:

  1. Do not take photographs or film
  2. Do not tap or spit on the window 
  3. Be respectful towards the ladies
  4. Do not peek through the cracks in the curtains
  5. Do not stand in front of the doors or windows 
  6. Pay in advance and discuss beforehand what is or isn’t permitted
  7. No unprotected sex
  8. Be hygienic (clean and well-groomed, not intoxicated)
  9. When force or coercion is suspected, call the police on 0900 8844
  10. Aggression is not tolerated, also not on the street

In Amsterdam where prostitution is legal, considered a normal job and has rules and regulations, the ladies’ safety and respect can be put first. In places like the U.K. where it is illegal, prostitution is massively stigmatised and the people who do it are seen to be doing it as a last resort, or are judged and accused of doing it to fund a drug habit.  In my opinion, if prostitution was legal and regulated like it is in Amsterdam, we would be able to do more to keep the women who turn to prostitution safe.

In addition to this, I feel that more education around drugs and drug use is desperately needed in the United Kingdom. Marijuana use in Amsterdam is accepted as a normality, whereas in the U.K. it is still being debated whether or not it should be used medicinally despite it being proven time and time again to be an effective pain reliever; it can even be used to treat things like glaucoma and it can help to control epileptic seizures.

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In the U.K., we are taught that drugs are bad and that’s just simply that. Drug related deaths in the U.K. have hit record levels and I believe that in order to prevent these types of deaths from increasing even further, the stigma around talking about drugs needs to stop. Personally I have not and would not take any hard drugs, but for people who choose to I feel there should be more educational facilities available so that they know what is actually in their drugs, and how they are going to be affected by them. In Amsterdam, despite hard drugs being illegal, there are multiple places you can go to have your drugs tested to ensure they are what they say they are. If people are testing their drugs in a safe environment and are fully educated on what they are taking, this will significantly decrease the chances of that particular drug causing them any severe harm.

I believe that having an open mind towards things like prostitution and drug use is key to ensure that people who go down these paths can be kept as safe as possible. In my opinion, I think that more acceptance of “taboo” subjects like these leads to more education about them, which in turn leads to less harm done.

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What are your opinions? Do you think prostitution should be legalised in your country? Is marijuana use permitted where you live? Do you think that people need to be educated about safe drug use more? 

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