Pimps, under legalisation, have been reclassified as managers and businessmen. Abuse suffered by the women is now called an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe. Sex tourism has grown faster in Amsterdam than the regular type of tourism: as the city became the brothel of Europe, women have been imported by traffickers from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia to meet the demand. In other words, the pimps remained but became legit — violence was still prevalent but part of the job, and trafficking increased. Support for the women to leave prostitution became almost nonexistent. The innate murkiness of the job has not been washed away by legal benediction.
The Dutch government hoped to play the role of the honourable pimp, taking its share in the proceeds of prostitution through taxation. But only 5 per cent of the women registered for tax, because no one wants to be known as a whore — however legal it may be. Illegality has simply taken a new form, with an increase in trafficking, unlicensed brothels and pimping; with policing completely out of the picture, it was easier to break the laws that remained. To pimp out women from non-EU countries, desperate for a new life, remains illegal. But it’s never been easier.
Legalisation has imposed brothels on areas all over Holland, whether they want them or not. Even if a city or town opposes establishing a brothel, it must allow at least one — not doing so is contrary to the basic federal right to work. To many Dutch, legality and decency have been irreconcilably divorced. It has been a social, legal and economic failure — and the madness, finally, is coming to an end.