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Everyone has an opinion about where Felicia Anna works. TIME has used pseudonyms to protect the identities of sex workers interviewed for this piece. In the years since Felicia Anna arrived in this city of ,, though, a crisis has been building that leaves the fate of the red light district uncertain. Budget tourists have flooded the streets of De Wallen, often snapping photos of sex workers without permission and crowding out residents. In the U. Halsema has ruled out a city-wide ban on sex work but says the red light district must fundamentally change: crime must go down, residents must have a quieter life, and sex workers must have safer working conditions.
In July, she announced four possible options for reform—including the closure of all windows and the end of prostitution in the red light district. That idea has angered sex workers and their unions, who say it would drive them into more vulnerable underground conditions and damage the livelihoods of tax-paying workers.
We want to be famous for our cultural heritage. On a Friday evening in the red light district this fall, they are out in force. British women on bachelorette parties stream out of karaoke bars and into brightly lit cafes that serve Nutella on everything. Clusters of French and Spanish teenagers wander over canal bridges, swigging wine bought from convenience stores, while Australian backpackers in coffee shops sample the legal weed.
And locals furiously grip their bike handles, chiming their bells to clear a path through the throng. Since Halsema took office in July , the city has hired extra security workers to remind tourists to behave and announced a ban on organized tour groups in the area, starting in April Soon, Halsema plans to go further. To alleviate congestion in the area and combat sex trafficking , she has suggested four scenarios: the closure of window brothel curtains to discourage gawking tourists; a reduction in the number of windows; the addition of more windows to relieve sidewalk crowding or the end of prostitution in the red light district entirely.
If she moved sex work out of De Wallen, Halsema says she would create a new work space somewhere else, either by relocating the windows or by creating a sex work hotel, where authorities could screen visitors. Around brothel windows closed , increasing the concentration of tourists around the ones that remained. Sex workers say that shifted the atmosphere in the red light district, turning it into a more general tourist area and making it harder to run sex-related businesses.