Sex worker sets up crowdfund as virus hits Amsterdam brothels

The usually-packed Red Light District is largely deserted these days. (AP pic)

AMSTERDAM: A Dutch sex worker has set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for prostitutes hit by the closure of brothels in Amsterdam due to coronavirus as campaigners raised fears over the loss of income and putting workers at greater risk.

The Dutch government ordered the closure of sex clubs in Amsterdam’s “Red Light” district on Sunday, where mainly female prostitutes pose in lingerie behind red-lit windows, as the number of infections hit nearly 1,500 with 24 deaths on Monday.

Prostitution is legal and regulated in Amsterdam where brothels are legal and window-prostitutes are self-employed tax payers, hiring their own windows on a nightly basis.

Hella Dee – the pseudonym of a prostitute who is a member of PROUD, the Dutch union for sex workers – set up a funding appeal, saying the closures have impacted Dutch sex workers and their families, with other prostitutes globally likely to be hit by similar moves.

She said the project – which had raised over €4,400 by late Monday – would support people who were in direct financial need because their income was lost, by providing handouts of €40 for emergency supplies.

“These workers don’t have a fixed income, they don’t receive paid sick leave and lack savings to fall back on to cover basics like food shopping or medicine,” Dee wrote on the campaign website.

“This also has consequences for their safety because they may feel forced to take more risks with their work under current circumstances,” added Dee, who was not immediately available to comment further.

UNAIDS has estimated that there were about 25,000 mainly female sex workers in Amsterdam although cautioned that the number could be higher with many operating in secret.

Campaigners working with sex workers said the closure of strip clubs and brothels until at least April 6 would leave many women with no income.

“It’s too early to estimate the exact impact,” Rodney Haan, adviser on prostitution and trafficking at the Dutch Centre for Crime Prevention and Safety, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But it’s clear that some sex workers are in a more vulnerable financial situation than others.”

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