Monday, November 27, 2006

Eastern European prostitutes


I take a closer look at the position of Eastern European prostitutes in the Netherlands. My final conclusion is that likely the large majority of the Eastern European prostitutes in the Netherlands can't decide freely what happens with their bodies (obviously there are also some sources which totally contradict this view, I also name them). Technically, that means that when you visit a random Eastern European prostitute and you have sex with her you'll likely violate somebodies physical integrity. The fact that most of these women know what kind of job they will be doing here doesn't change this.

It has to be acknowledged that many sources pertain to window prostitution. But, reports of human trafficking are in case of foreign prostitutes also many times related to clubs and the escort aside from window prostitution. That's why I conclude that what's true for foreign prostitutes in window prostitutes with regard to human trafficking is also true for other types of prostitution.

I'll cite several reliable sources to support my conclusions:

The Red Thread [labour union for prostitutes in the Netherlands] on Eastern European prostitutes:De Grabbelton van de rode draad (not dated, translated from Dutch into English)
Multiple sources indicate that 90 percent of the Eastern European women who work legally in prostitution are one way or the other extorted or exploited. The question remains if this falls under human trafficking or only under the offence of extortion. This also affects women who have settled all their residence documents.

Tampep on Eastern European prostitutes (Tampep is a European aid organization who helps migrant prostitutes. They mainly target the spread of venereal diseases among prostitutes. They do a lot of fieldwork among migrant prostitutes in window prostitution in the Netherlands):
TAMPEP 5, final report, September 2000/February 2002
The majority of the women are between 20 and 30 years old (with the exception of the women who work longer in prostitution). They are well educated; many of them have a professional secondary education and many of them used to work in their country in their profession before they set off to West.
They usually come from big towns.
Many of them are single mothers whose children are being brought up by their grandmothers during the mother’s absence. Almost all money they earn in prostitution is sent home in order to support the family. The women come from all levels of society. (...)
Ninety percent of the women from Central and Eastern Europe are - some way or the other - in the power of pimps, madams or traffickers. Many women accept it without much protest, but some of them want to change the situation. This means that the TAMPEP worker is regularly asked for advice on how to be liberated from the power of pimps. (...)
There are different shades of trafficking and levels of dependency of the women on the trafficker. Again, we cannot put all the women coming from Central and Eastern Europe in one category of poor victims who did not know what was happening to them. While most of women coming to the West know that that they will be working as prostitutes, they do not anticipate the human rights abuses that confront them upon arrival. The women are forced to work in appalling conditions and see little of the money they earn for their boss. Held often under constant control, the women have little or no control over when and how they work.

tampep newsletter 7 (April 2005):
In spite of the fact that these regulations have been in force for almost one year now, still very few women from new EU countries are aware that they can work legally in prostitution and/or do not know how they can arrange their work as self–employed sex workers. It leads to their dependency on third parties (pimps, traffickers, gobetweens, sex business owners, malafide lawyers, etc) and augments their vulnerability. Many women from outside the EU try to arrange residence permits in other ways such as for example through (fake) marriages, which leads them into situation of dependency. (...)

Changes in the sex worker population
The population of sex workers hasn’t changed significantly last times. Still, the largest group of sex workers is composed by the migrants of whom some 70% are the women from Central and Eastern Europe. As the result of the enlargement of the EU, Bulgarian and Romanian women (who until then dominated in the group of CEE women) had to leave the country (or go into hiding). Their place is taken by growing numbers of women from Poland, Hungary and Baltic States. For many of these women work in prostitution is a life option: they regularly commute between the Netherlands and their country and they are very eager to learn more about the work in prostitution so that they can earn more money in a safe way. According to the women, work in prostitution is not so profitable as before as the number of clients diminished significantly as the result of introduction of euro. They state that they have to work now more hard and have longer working days. However, there are no signals that there is more work without a condom.

There are also some clandestine prostitution settings, where work the women who had to leave the official circuit. These women are in complete power of the owners of these illegal brothels and the pimps. There is still a big involvement of trafficking networks in prostitution who arrange EU passports, the passage to the Netherlands and introduction to prostitution scene. There are numerous women (usually Russian and Ukrainian) with arranged EU passport of the new EU country. Most appalling is the fact that even the women from the new EU countries who can easily establish themselves as self-employed workers still come with the help of an intermediary/pimp for whom they work and to whom they have to pay every day (big) amounts of money.

The mobility of the women has increased significantly. Due to the fact that the women (from new EU countries) can work freely and can choose the place they work, they are continuously on move while looking for new and better places to work. Some prostitution streets/towns that are known to be quiet and safe are used as a sort of “training camp” where women new to trade get affinity in prostitution so that they can move further to better places. Women are often moved by a pimp – if a woman does not earn enough money in one place, he places her in another prostitution place.

tampep newsletter 7 (nr. 2 August 2006)
Position of sex workers in the official prostitution scene:
The women who work in the official prostitution scene are either Dutch nationals or aliens in possession of residence permit with permission to work or persons from the New EU countries who registered themselves in the Chamber of Commerce as self employed sex workers. Unfortunately, this last group of women, in spite of the fact that they can freely establish themselves as sex workers, still come with the help of the intermediaries with whom they have to share or give them all their earnings. There are also many women (Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian) whose work in the prostitution is being facilitated by international trafficking networks who supply the women with EU passports and control completely their situation and their earnings. (...)

Changes in the Sex Worker Population
The largest group of sex workers (about 70%) is still composed of women from CEE countries. Since the EU enlargement, more and more women from New EU countries are arriving in prostitution in the Netherlands. Last year the biggest group of newcomers have been from Hungary (often Roma) – they work in the window prostitution in most of the cities. The municipal policy with regard to their stay varies: in Amsterdam, they receive a permission for 3 months and after this they have to leave the town (or the country); in other towns they can stay as long as they want. They usually are in a position of dependency on third parties who organise their passage to the Netherlands and who strictly control the women. Another newcomers are the Bulgarian and Romanian women who used to work in the Netherlands before the EU enlargement and who had to leave the country in 2005. Having applied for and received from the Dutch Embassy the so-called MVV (promise to receive a (temporary) residence permit) they settle themselves in window prostitution. (...)

Drie kwart prostituees gedwongen volgens de volkskrant? [Three quarters of the prostitutes forced according to the Volkskrant?]: response of the Red Thread on their website to the article by Menno van Dongen ("driekwart van de prostituees uitgebuit", May 4th, 2007) in the Volkskrant.
Three quarters of the prostitutes on de Wallen are rumoured to be working under some form of force. We are always wary about giving percentages, but we know that a lot is wrong in prostitution. Anyway, we know that many Eastern European prostitutes work under the supervision of a pimp or another criminal. We also have doubts about the level of independence of African prostitutes. What we do about it? We have information in many languages for women who want to change their situation. We hand it out on average once per month. We would like to do that more often, but we have limited means. We regularly emit signals of abuses in prostitution and are also a walking encyclopaedia for prostitutes. (…)

From the Red Thread report "Voor de Draad ermee - Een opsomming van wantoestanden in de prostitutiesector in de noordelijke provincies"(2005) ["Out with it - a list of abuses in the prostitution sector in the Northern provinces"]:
(Translated from Dutch)

4. The city of Leeuwarden
In Leeuwarden we first went to the window area. At that place we had the suspicion that in the window area many women worked without the right documents. We saw for instance many Bulgarian women and we know that they don’t have a reasonable chance to work legally in the Netherlands based on association treaties. Some among them could work legally after they let a lawyer request the required document – a Machtiging Tot Voorlopig Verblijf [authorization for temporary residence] at the Dutch embassy in Bulgaria.
Aside from that we noticed the presence of men who controlled the women. They tried for instance to prevent that we spoke with the women. They blocked us the way and intimidated us by feeling us up. They sit with the women in the chambers and we felt that our coming just prevented that a woman was maltreated. We also established that many women have no idea what independent entrepreneurship means.
This is by the way also true for the landlords. They don’t deliver receipts of the rent and let the women choose their domicile on the workplace. Many women sleep and live there and can’t go outside during the night because the businesses are locked. We don’t want to even think about what happens when a fire will start. Which independent entrepreneur lives at the landlord and has the same landlord as the address of her business? We believe that’s a nasty business. The women are because of that completely dependent on the landlord and cannot protest sudden rent increases. Because of the height of the rent the women are forced to work six or seven days a week and have to heavily compete by for instance offering unsafe sex. You can see for yourself that especially unsafe, oral services are offered by reading the stories of clients on the internet. We are of the opinion that it is important that independent entrepreneurship in the window areas is taken seriously by the proprietors. We tell the women that when the proprietors treat them as independent entrepreneur they [the landlords] also must hand over accounts of the window rent, provided with name and address of the landlord and [the landlords] must produce a decent rental agreement. By far that doesn’t happen everywhere.
We were forced to abort our visit to the window area in Leeuwarden because one of the landlords wanted to prevent that the ‘independent entrepreneurs’ could decide for themselves if they wanted to speak with us. In other words, we were chased away in quite a brutal manner. A proprietor who does allow that loverboys walk around in the small courtyards but who stops us, does in no way display the readiness to see prostitutes as independent entrepreneurs, let alone treat them that way.

Look at Onderzoeksrapport:Loverboys in Amsterdam by Bovenkerk (2004), about Eastern European prostitutes on de Wallen (also see the my post about Loverboys and modern pimps):
page 59 (translated from Dutch into English):
For Eastern European women there seem to be men present in the background who rather operate as human trafficker or inspector in service of the human trafficking organisation. When one of us together with Toos Heemskerk [who works for “Het Scharlaken Koord”] came knocking on the door of Eastern European girls and stepped in, we noticed that each time within two minutes there was a phone call. The people who called probably were in the café on the opposite side and were keeping an eye on the windows. According to our informants there are many Albanians among the Eastern European supervisors. It’s difficult to find out.

Prostitute Bianca about Eastern European prostitutes in the book “Verlicht Kwartier, 40 jaar Arnhemse Spijkerbuurt” (2003) by Kees Crone (also see my post about the self-confident woman):
She admits getting in contact with the foreign girls is difficult. The language is a barrier. The girls from the Eastern bloc simply all have a pimp and barely have the chance to talk to someone else. If they try, they’ll have to deal with him first. A big mouth is the least they can get. She finds that really annoying.

Anna Ziverte in her book “False Promise” (2005, her experiences were in 1995), also see my post about the book she wrote:"False promise" (translated from Dutch into English):
In the Pascale there worked a lot of Eastern European women and they admitted us into their circle. (…) In the course of that week we learned a lot about the life these women led, which pimp – everybody had one – was good and which one was bad, and how you could make and conceal the most money. (…) Due to the stories of the other women we [Anna and Solvita] got the feeling that we were lucky with Ruud. Furthermore he was a father and it seemed he took good care of his child, he couldn’t be that bad. Anyway we weren’t battered and not abused by him.

Nieuwsbrief SRTV, December 2003 (true story about a Czech prostitute in a brothel as told by Jos Hermans from the Politie Noord- en Midden Limburg, translated from Dutch into English)
Other girls came from Poland and Russia. Obviously also from the Netherlands and Germany but those were ‘real whores’. She preferred not to have contact with them. They were harsh and always tried to steal clients from her.
She didn’t have much contact with them. But why should she….? They were all there to make money and to go home as quickly as possible. And on top of that most had a boyfriend. Blokes who were not friendly really. She knew that they simply were pimps. Nothing more, nothing less. Also, she often saw that there were rows because not enough money came in and blows felt thick and fast. She was glad she didn’t have a boyfriend like that…

More about Eastern European (and African) prostitutes in the report Tippelen na de zone(2005) about the street tolerance zone in Amsterdam (translated from Dutch into English):
page 22:
Eastern European prostitution-networks are very mobile and it could be that these women previously have worked on a number of zones for streetprostitutes in other European countries, like Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden and Germany. The women we meet sporadically are not familiar with relief workers and are hardly or even not approachable. They are often accompanied by a man, possibly their pimp, and speak little or even no English. (…)
page 130:
Eastern European and African women sometimes come as a group, but even when they come individually to the Netherlands, they often turn out to be a forced part of a network which has been set up from above. Especially Eastern European women are not fixed to one location, but rather a very mobile network. The organizers decide which location (or which form of prostitution) is most favourable at that moment. Under pressure of police action such networks move fluently to other locations in the Netherlands or abroad and prostitutes are often and frequently replaced by other women.

Liesbeth Veniz about Eastern European prostitutes in her report “Achter de ramen, veldwerk onder raamprostituees in Groningen”[“Behind the windows, fieldwork among window prostitutes in Groningen”] (1998) (she had contact with 25 Eastern European prostitutes: 8 Hungarian, 6 Russian, 3 Polish, 3 Czech, 1 Slovakian and 4 Yugoslavian, translated from Dutch into English)
page 9-10:
Most are relatively young, in their early twenties. The number of Eastern European women has increased the most strongest during the last year. Most Eastern European prostitutes initially come via women traffickers. The communication with them is usually very difficult, because they hardly speak any foreign languages and don’t dare to speak freely. Their contact with the outside world mostly seems to go through the traffickers or certain operators. This dependency on traffickers or operators is even reinforced by the fact that they are here briefly. Often there’s a whole tour planned for them.
The Eastern European women who come here for a second time rather seem to go there own way. Though it seems that during a renewed stay they, just as many young Dutch prostitutes, start relationships with boys from the milieu who work as pimps.

About prostitutes on the Theemsweg in Amsterdam in the report "Evaluatie Tippelzone Theemsweg Amsterdam 2003" door Sander Flight, Yvonne van Heerwaarden en Eric Lugtmeijer (translated from Dutch into English):
page 24:
From other research it comes to the fore that the actual nature and size of women trafficking on the tippelzone can be called serious, where the involvement “of perpetrators as well as victims from the Balkan-area is big” [Niesten, I. en M. Rietveld, “Georganiseerde criminaliteit uit de Balkan: mensenhandel bij de Tippelzone aan de Theemsweg”, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 2003]. Hereby it must be noticed that some women hardly or even don’t realise that they are victim of women trafficking. (…)
Most Eastern European women work on the zone via a ‘boyfriend’ (pimp) and are supposed to hand over a large percentage of their earnings. More than half of the women knew beforehand that they would be working in prostitution. The others came to the Netherlands under false pretences. One woman told for instance that she assumed that she would be working in the Dutch bulb-growing greenhouses. Some individuals indicate that they were tipped by a girlfriend about the work and the zone and came independently to Amsterdam.
Based on our interviews the suspicion arises that a large number of women don’t have much to say over their work: they don’t decide for themselves where they stand, how long they work and how much they have to turn over. The large flow on the zone also raises the suspicion that these women are employed elsewhere after a while. Apart from that, it also became noticeable that nearly all women had economic motives to come to the Netherlands. Most of the women we spoke with were mother of one or more young children. They choose to make money this way for the children and/or family. The faith in a better future and a strong survival instinct make this women very forceful. The fact that a pimp – often an acquaintance from the place of residence – wants to take a percentage of the earnings, is considered to be very normal by them and they take it granted. They are also under the assumption that, when they have made enough money, they can easily stop with the work.

Article about the Theemsweg from the “Telegraaf” newspaper. “Er zitten heel veel jonkies tussen…” (2004) by Marjolein Schipper (translated from Dutch into English).
Heleen Driessen (…) has been a co-worker of the HVO/Querido-project ‘De Huiskamer’ from the start. Here the women could catch their breath and got help and medical treatment if necessary. Driessen wrote the recently published report ‘Van Oost naar West, thuis best’ and concluded that over ten percent of the whores were forced into prostitution.
‘Due to their illegal status and the treat of violent reprisals towards their children and family members in Eastern Europe, the position of the prostitute is very weak.’ Of the remaining eighty percent ‘volunteers’ 20 percent indicated that prior to their arrival in the Netherlands they didn’t even know that they would end up in prostitution!

Goderie, Spierings en ter Woerds about Eastern European prostitution on the tippelzone in Rotterdam in the report “Illegaliteit en minderjarigheid in de prostitutie een jaar na de opheffing van het bordeelverbod” (2002) [also see my post this report, translated from Dutch into English]:
From time to time, depending on the intensity of police-controls, buses with Polish and other Eastern European women are dropped on the zone. Those women are sharply monitored by certain persons. They rarely come in the ‘living-room’. From stories of a number of respondents it can be deducted that for these Eastern European women there are signals of human trafficking. One of the male prostitutes tells that Eastern European are monitored by men at the entrance of the tippelzone. Recently he had spoken with a Rumanian woman who ran into the ‘living-room’ completely shaken, and who wanted to leave her pimp, because she was beaten by him.

Dieuwke Talma ran haptonomy groups for prostitutes for 8 years (see the book “Vrouwenmantel” [Women’s cloak], 2003), she didn’t allow drug addicted prostitutes in. She writes about Eastern European prostitutes:
Page 290:

I have been blamed that I have only got acquainted with the elite of the world of prostitution. Although that is not entirely true, I do understand that utterance. I have already had thirty years of experience as a social worker, but I have never aided drug addicts. I lack the knowledge and insight to properly aid the addicted prostitutes. Sometimes they reported themselves, but it went wrong very quickly because they couldn’t keep to an appointment.
Aside from that I was introduced to women from Eastern Europe, bought, sold and set to work in prostitution. Sometimes they came with two or three at the same time, brought along with one of the women from the group. That was what I found to be the most worse and heavy in my work with prostitutes; I felt and feel terribly powerless about it. Enough has been written about women trafficking and many people, organizations and politicians are very committed, but so little does change.
The economic temptation to get rich by trampling on others is probably very big. The sexual temptation of beautiful, cheap and often young girls who populate a segment of the brothels and tippelzones is apparently too big. The political temptation to put first our own health care and safety, our own education is probably too big. Women trafficking is of universal significance, it is said, and is therefore so difficult to deal with. But we have to start somewhere to feel jointly responsible for so many girls and women who are used and exploited as slaves?
It seems that this form of prostitution has moved further underground because of the lifting of the ban on brothels. The women I spoke with, were often frightened and nervous. They were after all not free to go and be where they wanted? As a serf of their pimp they were at most allowed to shop with their girlfriend. The working hours and conditions are often inhumane. Sometimes they sat in front of me with a damaged face and a husky voice and told about their country, their family, and about prostitution as the only possibility to gain money and a right to exist.

Mensenhandel vanuit Centraal- en Oost-Europa [Human trafficking from Central and Eastern Europe] (1997, afdeling Advies en Informatie, IRT-NON Internationaal Politie-instituut Twente, Universiteit Twente)
(translated from Dutch)
Page 36:

Table 3: number of reports as client at the Foundation Against Human Trafficking by country of origin
Czech Republic______0_____7_______3______7_____32____37______4
_and Slovakia

Baltic states________0_____0_______0______1______2______3_____21
former Yugoslavia____0_____1_____4_______4_____4______8______5
Romania and Bulgaria_1____0______3______5______7_____13______6
Latin America_______?_____?______17______18____25____20______?

* 1996 = until August

[The table doesn't work out on my blog, I'll show you the original table as depicted in the original report:]

It is evident that the number of women from Central Europe that reported themselves as victim, has quickly increased after 1991; the number of women from Eastern Europe who reported themselves, increased significantly since 1993. During the last years approximately 60% of those who reported themselves came from these areas.
Upon closer consideration it is learned that there are clear periods (shown shaded in the table [but shown red in my blog]) where many women from the same area of origin report themselves. These periods go on too long to be explained by incidents like police actions. The shifts fit the sequence where the countries were confronted with economic decline, inflation and unemployment. First Poland was the area of origin, next Ukraine, then the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the CIS and finally the Baltic States. It is remarkable that the recruitment from Ukraine contrary to that of other countries has an enduring character. Given the exceptional development of Ukraine (practically no privatization, high inflation and minimal unemployment) it could indicate that not unemployment but especially inflation and connected to this, the decline of the standard of living, is what mainly causes that women from this region become victim of human trafficking.

Page 61:
the victims have forged travel- and residence documents at their disposal. Like it turns out from table 18 on page 63, it is common that human traffickers deprive their victims of their passports. Especially the wholesale trade and the implanted organisations turn out to have control over channels to then supply the women with forged documents. In an investigation it could be established that Russian women systematically were supplied with Polish passports with a Polish identity to back them out of their visa requirement. From the investigation it turns out that, even when the women had a valid passport at their disposal and take their chance with a trafficker, their own passport is being taken and a false or forged specimen is being handed to them. The underlying reason is to limit the freedom of movement of the women and to compromise them.

Page 64:
The numbers in these four tables [tables 13-16] obviously reflect to a certain level the activities of the local police. That way it is clearly visible that during the last years particularly the region forces Limburg-Noord and Amsterdam-Amstelland have performed many criminal investigations into human trafficking. On the other hand it must not be concluded from the absence of victims in the escort prostitution that probably not human trafficking takes place there: the police namely doesn’t have the authority to investigate these escort bureaus.
Considering these limitations some very careful conclusions can be drawn. Human trafficking mainly takes place in club- and window prostitution. These offenders don’t choose a special segment based on their origin. On the other hand it turns out that victims from Central Europe end up mainly in club prostitution and victims from Eastern Europe mainly in window prostitution. In street prostitution only a small number of offenders and victims from Central Europe are encountered; Eastern European offenders and victims are totally absent there. Only among the women who report themselves to the STV [Dutch foundation against trafficking in women], there were some from Eastern Europe who have been put to work on the streets.

Page 77:
It is inherent in criminality that its size is difficult to be established. A segment of which the size is unknown, the so-called dark number, is always outside the view of the registering authority.
With the available data no reliable estimate of the true magnitude of the human trafficking from Central and Eastern Europe in the Netherlands can be made, that much is clear. Refraining would however be a little bit too lazy. In a deductive way an estimate can be made. This goes as follows. In the Netherlands there work some 25.000 people in prostitution. Some 60% of these prostitutes works in the window and club prostitution, the sectors where human trafficking takes place for the most part, that is 15.000 women. Of them some 40% comes from outside the European Union, that is 6000 women. Of them a third currently comes from Central and Eastern Europe, that is some 2000 women. The lion’s share of these women work under bad labour conditions which have been sketched in the previous section. They have a relatively weak position towards the brothel keeper, often receive less than the usual 50% of their earnings and in most cases have no legal residence status. But this doesn’t yet make them victim of human trafficking. By estimating the actual number of victims among these 2000 women can, given the lack of better criterions, only be relied upon the impression of policemen who conduct the vice inspections and our own impressions. Then, when the criterion of the Dutch prosecution policy is taken as a standard, i.e. if the women is in a position where she cannot speak for herself when she was lead into prostitution, then following our impression a quarter of them is victim of human trafficking, that is 500 women. If it then is furthermore true that trafficked women on average are kept to work for some three months, on a yearly basis in the Netherlands it concerns some 2000 victims from Central and Eastern Europe [Wrong!!!!! ERROR!!!! They forgot to include the victims who were already victim at the start of the year. That is, they have to add another 500 victims. That means a total of 2500 victims].

"Achter het cliché — hulp en dienstverlening aan prostituees in Den Haag — werkmethodiek in ontwikkeling" [“Behind the cliché — aid and services to prostitutes in The Hague — working methology in development”] (1999, Ellie Teunissen [ed.], SPP [Stichting Prostitutie Projecten Den Haag])
page 31-32:
For the women from among other things Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Uzbekistan and Albania the situation is different. The political situation in these countries has strongly influenced the women in their attitude towards the police, government and assistance. In these countries assistance is an institution controlled by the state. Because one of the female SPP-employees speaks multiple Eastern European languages, access is nevertheless possible. The issue of illegality is great just as with the Latin American prostitutes. A number of these prostitutes speak English and are reasonably approachable once contact has been. Many women however have been instructed to talk with nobody and they are guarded by pimps or ‘friends’. Most women however turn out to be able to release themselves after a while and work independently for themselves or their own family. Information about healthcare and the different bodies which are important for them, are well memorized by them. They increasingly know how to find their way to the SPP.

Tampep - final report (1994, edited by Licia Brussa)
page 43-46:
Since the beginning of the TAMPEP project in September 1993, a few hundred prostitutes from Central and Eastern Europe have been contacted by a member of TAMPEP. The majority come from Poland and the former Soviet Union (most of them from Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania) but also from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, former Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.
The women are approached on the street where they work, that is to say in the shop windows (one street in Alkmaar), in sex clubs (mostly in Limburg region), or in private apartments (in Hamburg, Germany). From the beginning the women are very open and are willing to talk to the TAMPEP worker who quickly gains their confidence.
Most of them are young women between 20 and 25. They are well educated: more than half of them have had a higher education and used to work in their country in their profession before they set off to the West. Some of them are students or women with a university degree. Some of them are divorced; many have children who are being brought up by grandparents during the absence of their mothers.
The women come from all levels of society. Their socio-economic background is rather varied: we can find representatives of the higher classes as well as of the lower classes. In many cases the level of their education is higher than that of their parents. Most of the women do not speak any foreign language. If they do speak one, it is usually some Russian which they have learnt at school or some German if they happened to work at some time in Germany.
The Polish, Czech, Slovak and Yugoslavian citizens are not obliged to have a visa for the Netherlands or Germany. The women have a right to a three months stay, but they are not allowed to work. The citizens of the former Soviet Union are obliged to have a visa for all western countries.
To be able to understand why specifically the women (and not the men) leave their country in such great numbers in order to find work in the West, one has to know their social backgrounds. First of all they are brought up in a traditional patriarchal society where the man is the dominant factor. At the same time, however, communism has given them opportunity and access to a higher education.
In fact, in Poland there are more women with higher education than men. Their relatively high level of education gives these women an equal opportunity in the labour market in Eastern Europe. So, if the financial need arises, they often take the initiative to look for new opportunities. But due to the poor economic state of their home countries, many of the more ambitious women leave for the West and consequently may end up in the sex business because prostitutes are always in high demand everywhere.
At the same time, the women stay psychologically dependent upon men, because their emancipation is not a result of a long process of gaining independence and becoming self-assertive but actually restricts itself only to the professional field. This is why Polish women are almost always in the power of pimps (in most cases their own countrymen). It is also why they so often depend upon others to the effect that they become victims of trafficking or other exploitation by men.

How they arrive in the WestTheir means of arrival in the West are rather varied. Generally it can be said that their degree of freedom does not depend on the way they arrived in Holland. Many Polish women had fallen victim to the typical form of trafficking. The women have been recruited in Poland by a go-between to work in a hotel or a restaurant and only upon arrival at the location were they informed that they had to work as prostitutes. Some women immediately refused to cooperate. If they were lucky they were given time to think it over, if not, they were beaten, blackmailed and forced to work anyway.
Some were promised that they would be freed if they could earn enough money. Some women had been working for many months without seeing a single penny. Obviously, it is not known how many women left the Netherlands as soon as they saw the opportunity, but there is a considerable number of women who, after they had freed themselves from their pimps, continued to work in prostitution.
Others knew before their departure that they would work in the sex business. They did not know however, that they were to work for a pimp who would confiscate all their earnings. Sometimes they managed to free themselves from the power of the pimp, but in most cases they were compelled to work for many months for various pimps, often being sold from one man to another for thousands of florins.
The women from the former Soviet Union are in the most precarious situation. All western countries require a visa. To be able to apply for a visa, one needs an invitation from the destination country, which is very difficult to arrange. In this situation the women sell themselves in Russia to an international gang which arranges everything for them. They travel under supervision, are taken over at the borders by other members of the gang and upon their arrival they are welcomed by Dutch, German or Yugoslavian gang members. They are likely never to be able to free themselves from their "bosses," as they call them.
Some of them start their professional career in Poland or in the former Yugoslavia which are much easier countries for them to enter. There they are approached by a member of a criminal gang who in the first instance arranges a false passport for them with the promise that soon they will be transferred to a western country. From this moment they are at the mercy of pimps who can do what they want with them: they beat them, take all their earnings, sell them to other pimps.
Then there are women who come on their own to the West to work in prostitution. Usually a girlfriend has recommended a good place to work. They try to stay independent, but it often happens that, when facing deportation for example, they have to call in the help of a pimp, and this way they tie themselves for a long time or for ever to the man.
The Czech women work in most cases for themselves. Some of them go to their homeland every few months and return to the Netherlands after some time in order to continue their work in prostitution. Many of them started their professional life in Germany and afterwards came to the Netherlands. Others, on the contrary, first worked in the Netherlands and later on left for Germany.
As one can conclude from the above, there are many ways for Eastern European women to arrive in the West. There are direct and indirect channels, the women either coming on their own initiative, being trafficked, or coming as a link in a chain migration.
Control is being exercised over the women in different ways. They may be under the direct control of a pimp who stays in the location and confiscates the money from them and moves them to a different place when he thinks there is need for it. It sometimes happens also that pimps cooperate closely with club owners. In such a situation the girl again never sees any money - the club owner hands it to the pimp behind her back.
Generally speaking it can be said that, in contrast to Germany, in the Netherlands, the sex industry is still in Dutch hands. The owners of sex clubs or shop windows are usually Dutch, and this way they act as some sort of intermediary between the women and their pimps (who are also usually non-Dutch men). In such a situation, the pimp might well be the boss of the woman but he has no influence on her work situation.

The goals of the womenThe women's motives to look for new opportunities outside their own countries are almost always economic. In most cases they do not come specifically to work in prostitution. But in most cases the work in prostitution is the only solution to their financial problems. There are hardly any women who worked also as prostitutes in their home countries. For most of them this was the only way to improve their standard of living and be able to taste life in the West. At the same time they are very ambitious and courageous: not everyone would dare to do what they have done.
In their conversations with the TAMPEP team member they strongly objected to being identified as a "whore". Prostitution is for them just an activity, a temporary job and not an identity. Therefore none of their relatives back home know the nature of their work. This kind of split identity helps them to proteet themselves - at least at home they are respectable women and mothers.
In Catholic Poland prostitutes are at the very bottom of the social ladder and if the women want to lead a normal life later on in Poland, they should never admit that they ever worked as a prostitute.
The goal of the women is to earn a lot of money, stop working and go home. Some of them have very precise goals: they want to buy a flat in order to free themselves from their parents, or to start a business.
Unfortunately, as may be concluded from the conversations with the women, those plans very rarely succeed, and at best only after a long period of time. This is mainly due to the fact that they spend a lot of money on supporting their families and on their own basic necessities. In most cases they are illegally resident, so they cannot rely on national health care or any part of the social welfare provision.
On the other hand there are many women who admit that they don't really know if and when they will stop the work. They realize that if they were to start working for a normal wage, it would be very difficult to adapt their lifestyle to a more modest level. They admit that they've got spoiled by the money and feel very frustrated about this because they cannot set deadlines for themselves to finish with prostitution.
The women from the former Soviet Union have many problems sending money earned to their home country. It is impossible to transfer the money from the Netherlands by post or by bank, so they are obliged to rely on services of go-betweens who ask a large amount of money for performing the task.

Mobility of the womenThe women are very mobile. They move constantly from one place to another, from one town to another, from one country to another. There are several reasons for this mobility. One is the fact that the women work for a network of pimps who substitute women and transfer them from one place to another. In such a case the woman is not free to decide about her movements.
Another reason is that the women are afraid of the police and consequently try hard to avoid being caught by them. They are constantly on the move, in search of a safe place to stay.
In some cases the women who have managed to free themselves from the power of the pimp, have to find a new place of work far away from him.
Some women move constantly to find a better place of work where the earnings might be better.

TAMPEP - final report - June 95/June 96
page 40-41:
A comparison of the target groups of TAMPEP 1 and 2
If you compare the make-up of the present target group with the one of two years ago, you notice some major changes.
The first change concerns the nationalities of the women. At the time of TAMPEP 1 (1993/1994) Polish women constituted the largest group, while during TAMPEP 2 (1995/1996), the women originating from republics of the former Soviet Union, specially from Ukraine, started dominating the target group.
This phenomenon might be due to a growing poverty in the former SU, where more and more women seek an opportunity to work abroad. These women are recruited by members of international gangs which specialise in trafficking in women. These criminal groups, which are well-organized, form a powerful network covering many countries. They cooperate closely between countries, and the members of the gang have different tasks such as recruiting of the women, organising the passage to Holland and taking care of the women at their destination country.
This expansion of multinational gangs has led to the gradual dissappearance of individually operating traffickers, usually Polish men.
The Polish women normally used to work for single pimps, who operated independentely or in small groups. They are now being pushed aside by powerful gangs from the former SU.
Another change in the make-up of the group concerns the level of professionalism of the women. The target group of TAMPEP 1 consisted of women who were novices in prostitution, while most of the clients of TAMPEP 2 have already worked elsewhere in prostitution (but usually not in their home country) before they came in touch with the streetworkers of TAMPEP.

Why are East European women so often victims of trafficking in womenMost of them still believe in the myth of the rich West. Everybody knows somebody who made "lots of money" in the West. However, the chances of legal migration to a wealthy area such as one of the countries of the EU are very small. So if the woman wants to work in the West, she has to find an illegal way to get there. This illegal immigration makes people very vulnerable to exploitation by a go-between.
So it is not only the poverty in their home country, but also the policy of countries of the EU that makes this kind of trafficking possible.
The women are brought up in a traditional patriarchal society where the man is the dominant factor. At the same time, communism has given women the opportunity and access to a higher education. In fact, in Poland for example, there are more women with a tertiary education than men. So, if the financial need arises, they often take the initiative to look for new chances, but due to the poor economic state of their home countries, many of the more ambitious women leave for the West and consequently end up in the sex-business because prostitutes are always in high demand everywhere. At the same time, the women stay psychologically dependent upon men, because their emancipation is not a result of a long process of gaining independence and becoming self-assertive but actually restricts itself only to the professional field. This is why Polish, Ukrainian and Russian women are almost always in the power of pimps (in most cases their own countrymen) and why they so often depend upon others to the extent that they become victims of trafficking or other forms of exploitation by these men.
Another reason why the East European women are so often victims of trafficking is their total naïvetée and blindness. It seems that these persons did not have much opportunity to develop any self-defence mechanism. The housing shortage forces many youngsters to stay with their parents, thus blocking the way to independence. This way they lead overprotected lives and may not be able to experience the harsh facts of their culture.
For many women coming from the republics of the former Soviet Union, the fact that they have to share their earnings with the traffickers is completely acceptable. In the conversations with the TAMPEP worker, they emphasize their happiness about having a job in the West. The fact that they have to pay so much money to the traffickers is considered as completely normal. Very often they cannot even imagine that their situation could be different. Prostitution is for them inseparably involved with the pimps.

I want to name two sources which contradict all the previous depictions of Eastern European prostitutes in the Netherlands I mentioned earlier. Dina Siegel interviewed 25 Russian speaking prostitutes in the Netherlands in 2002. She researched the position of illegal prostitutes in the Netherlands who at first were condoned but after the legalization of prostitution in October 2000 suddenly were supposed to leave the legal sex businesses. She wants to find out what happened to the women who now worked outside the legal sex-businesses. You can find the results in the book "Transnational Crime" [2005], edited by Jay Albanese, see the chapter: "women trafficking and voluntary prostitution: Russian-speaking sex-workers in the Netherlands" (page 4-23) by Dina Siegel. She draws a surprising conclusion:
My findings are based on intensive contacts with ten informants: young Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian, and Byelorussian women between 16 to 31 years old. Six of them had finished secondary and professional education and four were university graduates. Back in Russia, they were employed as a teacher, a translator, a doctor, an economist, a bank clerk, a model, etc. Most of them were unmarried, one was divorced and two were married to Russian men living in Russia with their children and parents. All of them came to work as prostitutes in the Netherlands voluntarily. In addition, I talked to fifteen other women. These conversations varied from several hours with the same informant on different occasions to short conversations at birthday parties or during mutual activities such as the celebration of the Russian New Year. All conversations were conducted in Russian, my own, native language. The information I gathered was extremely useful: the women told me their life-stories, with an emphasis on their problems in the former Soviet Union and in the Netherlands. They talked about their past, their families, their plans for the future and, of course, about their life and work in the Netherlands. They shared with me their ideas on Dutch prostitution policies and Dutch culture in general, on their clients and contacts with other Russian-speaking sex-workers and other people connected to their trade. They saw me as a compatriot who was far more familiar with the Netherlands than they were, and they often asked me for advice or information on Dutch habits and culture. Sometimes they asked me to translate letters or make telephone calls in Dutch for them, which I usually did.


Early on during my fieldwork, I realized that the image of trafficked women who are forced to work as prostitutes under the threat of violence, did not fit the women I dealt with. Similar to my previous research on Russian-speaking women and Turkish men [Siegel, D. and Y. Yesilgoz. 2003. "Natashas and Turkish Men: New Trends in Women Trafficking and Prostitution." In Global Organized Crime. Trends and Developments, edited by D. Siegel, H. van de Bunt, and D. Zaitch eds. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.], I found that all my informants presented themselves as businesswomen, namely independent sex-workers. In the group of illegal sex-workers I distinguish two sub-groups:(1) women who had lived in the Netherlands for more than 5 years, were previously employed in brothels, but had to seek employment elsewhere as a result of the new regulations; and (2) newcomers who arrived after October 2000 to work as prostitutes.


The most popular way for women to travel from Russia is through travel agencies often legitimate-and with the use of (usually) authentic documents. The women travel as tourists, but do not return from Europe. My informants usually travelled alone, or in small groups of three women at most, but never as part of organized tourist trips, in order to "move freely and not be controlled by others." They carried the address of a contact person in the Netherlands (usually Russian or Dutch), provided by the travel agency where they booked their tickets. Later, upon their arrival in the Netherlands, the contact persons turned out to be brothel owners or private persons who either operated an illegal brothel, or mediated between different sex clubs. This was, however, no surprise to them and they hoped to find work in an expensive sex club, where they could earn more money. In some cases they realized that these contacts were unlike regular employers and that their demands were higher and the economic commitments much harder to fulfil than they had expected. Women who travelled privately, without the assistance of travel agencies, described the same pattern. They were given addresses of contacts in the Netherlands (often brothel owners) by friends who already worked there.

All my informants travelled by plane. All of them booked their tickets in one or another travel agency. The role of these agencies goes far beyond selling tickets. Traditionally, Russian criminals operate behind the facade of an employment agency, a travel agency, or modelling or match making agencies. The last two, for example, are used to identify women looking for an opportunity to go abroad. Information is sometimes exchanged with criminal organisations (Hughes and Denisova 2001 ,[ "The Transnational Political Criminal Nexus of Trafficking in Women from Ukraine" in "Trends in Organized Crime"]). My informants, however, did not consider the people in the travel agencies to be "traffickers," but rather "agents" or organizatori ("organizers" or "managers"). According to my informants organizatori are "businesspeople," who do not necessarily belong to criminal organisations, but it is true that they rely on krysha, protection, which allows them to run their business. Without krysha no business can survive, according to the women, and they consider this phenomenon an inevitability in the unstable post-reform socioeconomic situation in the former Soviet Union.
Most of the women that I met paid for their own airline ticket and arranged their own visa and hotel reservation or private place to stay. Many were assisted by friends or acquaintances in the destination country beforehand. In a few cases they gave gifts to the organizers in the travel agency (gold chains, French perfume, and/or money) on top of the regular costs of their ticket and visa. One gave a bribe to a travel agent for "arranging" a place on an airplane, when no places were available for that particular flight. According to some informants, the organizers were people you could trust, at least as far as logistic support. They had more problems with the people who met them in the Netherlands.

On arrival in the Netherlands

As soon as the women arrived, they found themselves connected to a whole network of pimps, brothel owners and even their old friends, who now wanted payment for their assistance and contacts. In addition, they were sometimes asked to do things they were not ready for, such as group sex, extra long hours, etc.
Irina (age 21), who arrived in 2001:

I don't mind working extra hours, but I don't want to give my money to these parasites around me. One can earn a lot of money in three illegal sectors: weapon, drugs and women. In all three you earn almost the same, but the first two are full of risks. Let these 'tough guys' deal with the risky things, and leave me alone.
The first few months Irina worked for a brothel owner who "in spite of the new law and controls" was willing to employ her, but then she left the brothel and started work as a call girl, mostly "with the same regular clients," as she put it.
There are a few common features to all my informants: all women were aware of what their future job in the Netherlands entailed (or at least guessed what kind of work they were going to do). Secondly, when they were still in the former Soviet Union, they realized that they had the choice either to travel or not; in the Netherlands they found themselves tied to various dubious figures and under financial obligations. Thirdly, although they were willing to work as prostitutes, there were not always ready for the working conditions and the financial demands made on them.


During my fieldwork I did not find any evidence of highly organized criminal networks of either Russian or other criminals who were involved in the trafficking of my informants to the West. Neither did I come across information on physical violence against these women or indications that they were forced to work as prostitutes. The highest level of violence I was told about were the threats that were uttered when the cost of a rented apartment were not paid on time.


In some cases there were attempts by Dutch or other pimps to take advantage of the situation of the prostitutes, especially after they left the brothels. But it seems that the women were able to protect themselves and stay independent.


It appears from my research that the sometimes overly dramatic presentation of the phenomena of prostitution an trafficking is in many cases groundless and exaggerated.

I believe this is very strange. Although, there could be a difference between prostitutes who work in legal brothels and those who don't, perhaps the last are more independent. It could also be a sampling effect; it's far more easier to interview independent prostitutes. And at least initially the women did seem to be exploited (although they knew what kind of work was awaiting them). So perhaps her research doesn't really contradict observations made by others at all. Dina Siegel also says something very funny:
Russian-speaking prostitutes who work for themselves, often have to use various strategies to remain independent. It often happens that they present themselves to their clients as working for certain pimps or in specific brothels, implying that they are not working on their own. This kind of lying and "identity manipulation" is typical for Russian-speaking prostitutes in the Netherlands. Siegel and Bovenkerk (2001) described Russian call girls in the Netherlands who used an imaginary Russian Mafia threat to chase away local pimps who bullied them (2000:435-437). These are "survival strategies" used by many prostitutes.

(she means this report: Crime and manipulation of identity among Russian-speaking immigrants in the Netherlands, 2000)

I then begin to wonder; do these prostitutes also say these things to social workers? Is that the reason why we hear so many negative messages from aid workers?

According to the report "Verboden bordelen - evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod: niet legale prostitutie" (2006) ["Forbidden brothels - evaluation of the lifting of the ban on brothels: non legal prostitution"] at least some Polish women seem to be independent.
on page 81 it says (translated from Dutch):
To establish that there is no exploitation or human trafficking, some aspects can be formulated as well. This way during the fieldwork some findings were made where a reasonable amount of independence, or to say it better: self determination, could be deduced. It happened a number of times that prostitutes, often originating from Poland by the way, indicate that they come to work in the Netherlands for a couple of weeks and then go home again for a couple of weeks. They decide for themselves when they come and go, and arrange the transportation themselves.

On the other hand, the Red Thread-report "Rechten van prostituees....." [Rights of prostitutes.....] (Sietske Altink and Sylvia Bokelman, 2006) mentions a prostitute from Poland:
(translated from Dutch)
page 61-62:
A short time ago this business has a new name and a new owner. On the wall there is a list with house rules. This has to let the reader believe that you are dealing with women who work there as independent contractors. A man enters the building to ask if the women want to see us.
We end up in a very small kitchen with a mini-table and two little chairs. We are sitting there with the five of us and you can't hardly move. The women say that they lodge here the whole day. We speak with a Polish woman. She tells that she works here every now and then and stays away for a long time. We find the story very strange, because we have seen her before, even though she says to hardly be here. Another remark that raises doubts is that she has been welcome here for years to work here. We couldn't reconcile this with the fact that there just has been a new owner.
During our conversation the telephone rings and we see clients call on the mobile phones of the women. The women also advertise on the internet.
The new owner tells us that he finds it difficult to change the mentality of the women. They were used to the fact that everything was arranged for them. Having said this, he departs to a closet where he is ironing. In the meantime another man has entered the kitchen. He is on a visit and grabs a hamburger and a beer.

From the report Prostitutie naar een illegaal en onzichtbaar circuit? ['prostitution to an illegal and invisible circuit?'](2002) by M.D.E. Averdijk about prostitution in Twente.
page 83-84:

Aside from aforementioned testimonies another testimony has been made by a person who was deeply involved in the prostitution world of Twente. In this testimony the person points at a shift concerning human trafficking with (Central and Eastern European) prostitutes. This shift means that, where proprietors previously recruited through the ‘supply lines’ of themselves or through contacts, since 2000 there is an increase of the number of pimps that mainly offer Central and Eastern European prostitutes. From these and aforementioned testimonies it turns out that groups of men of originally Turkish origin, sometimes in cooperation with Central And Eastern European traffickers, play a big role in the ‘supply’ of women since 2000. Some women are collected directly from their country of origin, others are being bought in Germany and brought to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands the women reside in the house of their pimp (like it turned out in the cases), but also the places of residence are settled through acquaintances. The women are put to work in different businesses. They have to pay back for the journey and for their stay high costs are taken into account. At the end the women themselves keep only little or nothing of their earnings.
It further turns out from testimonies that many proprietors in principle have an aversion of these kind of practices. But despite they are mainly employers of these women, they also turn out to play a role in the exploitation. As well as from statements of women as from the testimony it turns out that often arrangements exist between the pimp and the proprietor regarding the payment of the earnings.
page 94:
The rise of pimps which manifests itself mainly among Central and Eastern European women, is related to the removal of the policy of tolerance regarding prostitutes without a labour license. This way the ‘supply lines’ and sources of the proprietors dried up, and they became ‘dependent’ on pimps and traffickers.

Escort in Amsterdam Revisited: De Amsterdamse Escortbranche Anno 2007 (2007, Marnix W.B. Eysink Smeets, Leon van Lier, Renée Römkens, Margreth Egelkamp, Jenneke van Ditzhuijzen, m.m.v. Peter Klerks, Pauline Naber en Annet Speelberg):
(translated from Dutch)
page 25:

By far most entrepreneurs in the middleclass and lower class [of the escort industry] whom we spoke with; actually did notice that a considerable number of workers were attached to a ‘pimp’, where they also regularly receive signals of force and pressure.

I work almost merely with Romanian girls, after all they dominate the market at this moment. But you can’t really figure them out, they hardly give information. But when such a girl suddenly has bruises, or doesn’t come down when you drive in front of their place, then you obviously understand that something is not kosher.”
“When such a girl before or after a job immediately starts to SMS, then you know that there’s a guy behind it.”
“Until recently 80 percent were attached to a pimp, now I estimate it is a little bit better, roughly 60 percent. And I also see that there are a number of houses where these girls are under supervision. That also has decreased, but they are still there.”

Some people involved by the way, escorts among them, report that the intake sometimes goes further than merely the administrative: starting from sometimes completely undressing to in some cases ‘first testing by the entrepreneur of the offered goods.’

page 26:
Only on a very limited scale Dutch women are being mediated via the bureaus. An exception is the top of the market, where Dutch women are present after all. Also among the independent escorts we encountered relatively many Dutch women.
Actually since some time it is women from the Balkan countries who dominate the market in the middle and bottom of the bureau market, where especially the Romanian women catch the eye. That is confirmed by multiple types of sources: by those involved in the market themselves, scans of websites of the bureaus, experiences of clients and experiences of investigation services.
The national prostitution view recently described by Daalder, that indicates that also as a consequence of sharpened supervision and enforcement the number of women from Romania should have decreased, doesn’t seem to be visible in the Amsterdam escort scene (Daalder, 2007, p 14), more to the contrary.
Within these two separate clusters a difference in age catches the eye. Among the escorts in the middle and bottom of the bureau market the largest group has an age of around 20. Among the independents and the top bureaus this is higher and the deviation is also bigger.
According to insiders also a change in trends regarding education levels has occurred because of the increase of women from the Balkans. They notice that the first batch of women from Eastern Europe who were active in the escort were relatively highly educated, at this moment there are talks that mainly lowly educated women are involved. Among the independents and women in the higher segment we see more varied levels of education among who also the highly educated.

page 26:
“I came to the Netherlands because I heard from a friend that I can earn a lot of money hear in the sex business. I have been for five months in a house with five other Romanian girls. I wasn’t allowed to go outside, except to work, my passport was taken from me, I had to hand over a lot of my earnings. At one moment I nevertheless found my passport. I immediately went away. First back to Romania, then on my own to the Netherlands again. Because I do want to make money, but not under pressure. You have no idea how large, corrupt and widespread the system is behind this.”
Another:Not one Romanian girl will say she has a pimp or that she is forced. I won’t too. Therefore I will say nothing what has happened before this. But that Romanian girls are put under pressure on a large scale is clear. Also by threatening the family at home or even worse. It is that I have to earn money and that I can’t do it any other way. But I find this work terrible and I would like to stop today rather than tomorrow.

page 30:
The Dutch investigation experts involved in the international investigation of human trafficking point at an increased and large extent of activities by Romanian human traffickers. The liaison officer who is settled in Bucharest estimates in this light that 70 – 80 percent of all Romanian and Bulgarian prostitutes are the victim of human trafficking. The recruitment seems mainly to be going by way of material seduction (when it is clear it is about sex work high earnings are being conjured up, or other work is offered). In the Netherlands these estimates are once again confirmed by experts at the Nationale Expertisecentrum Mensenhandel. The level in which this is interwoven with the escort branch stays unclear, but this is present.

page 31:
It won’t be a surprise that the entrepreneurs at the top of the market estimate that the type of escorts whom they work with, are mainly working voluntarily. As soon as we interview lower in the market the picture changes drastically. The entrepreneurs work, as indicated earlier, especially with Romanian women. And “with those Romanian women things are completely wrong”, like one entrepreneur expresses it.


The image that arises is one of a majority of Romanian women who still cling to a pimp or otherwise are under supervision. Related to this there are talks of a ‘business deal’: the pimp of the organization involved has prefinanced money that has to be paid back with a firm interest rate. Related to this there are also reports of absurd prices that the ladies have to pay for certain matters.
Regarding another segment [of Romanian prostitutes], multiple sources report, there is no business deal, but actual compulsion, through multiple methods, among which violence or threats towards the family at home. Related to this there are also signals that in and around Amsterdam there are a number of houses where the Romanian women live in small groups, often under the supervision of a male (or female) pimp. This is consistently reported by those involved in and around the branch (entrepreneurs, ex-entrepreneurs, escorts themselves), but is also made plausible by incidental observations of investigation services.

page 32:
Often it is emphasized that the women are hardly willing to talk about their circumstances. The two Romanian women whom we spoke to after all confirmed nevertheless in main lines as well as in several annoying details, the main lines as described above. Increasingly the women are able to break free from the pressure and live together in small groups. The change in rules last January the 1st, through which Romanian from that date on have the right to work in prostitution as an independent entrepreneur, are supposed to have strengthened this tendency, as is observed by those involved in the field.

Verslag project Vertrouwensvrouw voor prostituees 2005 t/m 2007 (Thérèse van der Helm, April 2008)[report project Confidential female counsellor for prostitutes 2005 until 2007]
This quote is important. The Romanian woman describes the people who helped her as 'traffickers' (handelaren). The assistants collected the money, but she still gets a fifty-fifty deal? Forced and free lie close to each other.
page 4:
Sunny is a Dutch, originally Romanian women of 30 years old.
She tells: “I was 13 when I ran away from home and I didn’t go to school anymore. I had all kinds of (mysterious) jobs and I was already busy with men. Twelve years ago I came by way of a network of traffickers to work in the Hague. I didn’t feel a victim, we have never seen the big boss, we only knew his name. His assistants came to collect the money every day. We worked in a street in The Hague where at that time only Latin American women worked. So we, as the only young Romanian women in that street, earned money like water. We had a fifty-fifty deal with the big boss, but still kept a lot of money for ourselves. One day the police came in the street and they all took us to the police station. There were 20 other Romanian women. I didn’t want to report. On the police station I heard that the big boss was caught and I had to cry. We were put on the airplane and flown back to Romania. When I was there for two weeks and I bored myself stiffly and couldn’t earn money, with a girlfriend I again left Romania and in a roundabout way arrived in Amsterdam because we didn’t dare to go to The Hague again. (…)

Article in De Pers
Als popje in Etalage [Like a doll in display window]
By Merel van Leeuwen
May 6th 2009


This 32-year old Czech woman consciously chose in the midst of the nineties for a life behind the window. She thought that she could fend for herself without a boyfriend or pimp, but was financially exploited by a Dutch man with whom she started a relationship. Only, she realized that much later.

Last year she stepped out of prostitution. Her professional life took place behind the windows of Mainz, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Alkmaar. She teaches herself to speak Dutch by watching Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden and other Dutch soaps. Still one year and then she has finished her education to become a haematologist. She is busy searching for a job and puts herself forward as a promoter of prostitutes on the Achterdam.


Maria managed to maintain herself between the girls in Amsterdam. She rented a room in the Gordijnensteeg and as one of the last women from Eastern Europe she acquires a temporary residence status without problems. For years she works as an independent entrepreneur and so-called white illegal, until she gets a residence permit in 2005. As one of the few in Amsterdam Maria had no pimp.

’I always had a big mouth about that they wouldn’t get me, but it did happen nevertheless, so stupid. On one evening a girl was robbed, after which a boy of the security offered me to look after my belongings. So I gave him my bag, with the car credentials, my keys, passport. At the end of the day I asked my belongings back. That will cost you a thousand guilders, he then said. Screw it, I thought and I left without my belongings. But yes, I must have them back. A day later I said I would pay after all. But then it was raised to a thousand guilders per item, and I started to pay. Another boy of the security heard the story and wanted to solve it for me, but then I had to pay five thousand guilders to the first boy. I didn’t have it, but he wanted to lend it to me. He said: I’ll help you. Do you feel it coming?’ Maria laughs.
The boy who ‘helps’ her; convinces her to move in with him in Hoofddorp and they start a relationship. Five years later she finds out that she has been terribly deceived. All the money she earned, she gave that to him. For their future, what he fooled her into believing. The couple bought two privéhuizen [brothels] from her money, in Leiden and Schiedam. Maria’s rescue is that her boyfriend, a Dutch kamper [former caravan dweller], ‘forgets’ to pay taxes, after which the police performs a raid in 2000 and arrests him.

’But I stayed loyal towards him. I kept my mouth shut towards the police, because he has also helped me. Very stupid, so crooked, because he was a bastard. But when I heard all the terrible stories of other girls, I found I wasn’t in such a bad position. He didn’t batter me, I had my own car, I could do what I liked. The first year in prison I even sent him 50 euros weekly.’ Maria laughs again.


Maria even calls the transition period between the guilder and the euro a golden period, because everybody wanted to rid themselves of their black market money. But because of the arrival of mainly Bulgarian girls the prices have dropped drastically last years. When previously the girls mutually agreed not to work under a certain price, the newcomers don’t bother about that at all and do it for less.

’Those girls from the countryside in Eastern Europe know that they don’t come here to work in the catering industry or as an au-pair. But prostitute here is still always a better life than on the countryside there. They see their pimp as their boyfriend. He arranges a house and does nice things with her, but such a girl pays tremendous amounts of money for that. They feel special, chosen by such a boy and feel a great loyalty towards him. But they don’t realize that they could be much better off without him.’

article in Noord Hollands Dagblad
Van peeskamer naar collegezaal [from window brothel to lecture hall]
February 13th 2009


Actually she wanted to persist for one other year. To ‘pezen’ [prostitute] for a while until she has finished her study haematology. But because of ‘personal circumstances’ – she didn’t want to reveal more – she stopped in Alkmaar with her work behind the windows. “In Utrecht there was no place anymore, Amsterdam I find it much too crowded with all these tourists. I tried it for a while in The Hague. Speaking about dangerous… I will nééver go there again.”

From the archives of the Dutch newspaper nrc:
Pezen voor je leven; Vrouwenhandel neemt toe, vooral vanuit Oost-Europa [prostituting for your life; Women trafficking increases, especially from Eastern Europe]

Alfred van Cleef

June 17th, 1995


It often occurs that a foreign prostitute must hand over half or more of her income to a ‘boyfriend’ or protector. Otten [club owner of Lovers Lane, on the rijksweg in Mook]: [“]many club owners would rather have girls with a pimp. Because they work at least. I they don’t feel like it, they get a punch, that’s how it is.[“] He himself doesn’t want pimps over the floor. [“]You just know what kind of blokes they are, it emanates from their jaws. Say it yourself, how many decent pimps are there now? When my girls are under thumb of a pimp, she goes out. Indefinitely. Yet it is easy to always blame the blokes. Look, you have three categories of girls: clever, dumb and extremely dumb. Yet I lately had experienced that one of the girls finally had gotten rid of such a bloke. A week later she nevertheless goes back to him and he grabs that girly by the throat. That girl had to leave.[“]


For a long time prostitution is no longer concentrated in the big cities. In Northern Limburg alone there are 58 registered brothels, against 63 in Amsterdam, so says project leader J.H. Hermans of the team Onderzoek Mensenhandel [Investigation Human Trafficking] of the regional police Limburg-Noord. [“]And then I don’t even talk about escort services, window prostitutes, housewives, street prostitutes and gays.” Hermans’ team performs aimed raids in brothels in Limburg of which there is a suspicion that women trafficking is at issue there. What he encounters during those raids he calls extremely alarming. [“]I dare to assert that seventy percent of the prostitutes in Northern Limburg are victims of women trafficking. Girls who have been put into the trunk while being drugged, minors Russian women with forged Polish passports.[“]

In many clubs the prostitutes are totally isolated according to Hermans. [“?”]They live there internally: sometimes with twenty women in one building with only six rooms, where they also must receive their clients. They only speak a Lithuanian dialect or Slovakian, are never allowed to go outside, are being relocated continuously and must work permanently, during menstruation or not. During illness they are simply dumped, beat it. They are treated like cattle, as utensils. The majority are with gigantic debts. The payment of their so-called visa and the transport. I have only one word for this: slavery.[“]


Roughly twenty women made a report of women trafficking in the case against the Dutchman H.B., who in the meantime is in a Czech cell. ‘The case H.B.’ is jewel of the stable of Hermans and his team. H.B., former owner of sex club Paradiso in Haelen in Limburg, is suspected of recruiting many dozens of women from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with as destination brothels in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Between nose and lips Hermans slips the words that H.B. was vice-chairman of the Vereniging van Exploitanten van Relaxhuizen. Chairman Klein Beekman: [“]No vice-chairman, but committee member. That’s right. Now he has been expelled. H.B. was also an ex-cop[“], Klein Beekman strikes the ball back. Which is confirmed [that H.B. was a cop] by the regional police Limburg-Noord. [”]But that was a long time ago[“], says the spokesperson.

From the archives of nrc:
IND: prostituees niet zelfstandig [IND: prostitutes not independent]

By one of our editors

Thursday October 15th 1998

Eight out of ten Eastern European prostitutes who work on de Wallen of Amsterdam, are the victim of women trafficking. That was put forward by two police officers yesterday before the court of Amsterdam during the handling of an appeal of six Eastern European prostitutes against the rejection of their residence permit by the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst ([Immigration and Naturalization service] IND). These women want to settle themselves as an independent entrepreneur, but the IND doesn’t believe that they are truly independent. That’s why the IND refused a residence permit two times. According to investigator H. Florie of the Sfinx-team that investigated women trafficking on the Wallen of Amsterdam, most Eastern European prostitutes come with false documents to the Netherlands. “The girls are mostly lowly educated and naive and are an easy prey for women traffickers. They often have debts, because they have to pay back the traffickers for a false passport and the journey to the Netherlands”, so says Florie.

According to the policeman it is difficult to gather evidence against the women traffickers because many victims don’t dare to make a statement [to the police]. “Not only the women themselves are threatened, but also their family members abroad’, says Florie. Also his superior, chief commissioner T. Eeken, doubts if the women are truly working indendently. According to him they almost never have money, while they nevertheless earn five hundred to thousand guilders per day. Above all there are always ‘protectors’ in the neighbourhood according to Eeken. That’s why he assumes that the prostitutes have to hand over their earnings.

From the archives of the the Volkskrant:
Hoerenbeleid Amsterdam bevordert vrouwenhandel [Whore policy Amsterdam encourages women trafficking]

Unknown, Weert Schenk

Published on February 21th 1998

The judge has helped the ‘kastenbazen’ [window brothel owners] a hand. In July last years the court in The Hague decided that window prostitutes from countries with whom the European Union has an association treaty, like Poland, the Czech Republic and Slowakia, are allowed to work here. They get a residence permit if they can prove that they are independent entrepreneurs.

Since then the Wallen have been flooded with Eastern European women with a passport which is false or not. For insiders it is clear that they are not working independently. They can see that by the cars which each drop three to four women on the working address. In front of the houses almost constantly foreign men (Turks, Yugoslavs and Albanians) stand guard.

Field workers assume that the guards of the women are ‘errand boys’ of a criminal network. The women, they say, didn’t come to Amsterdam on their own accord, but are being put to work. According to the foundation The Red Thread, who look after the interests of prostitutes, the Eastern European women work for the ‘humiliatingly low’ rate of 35 guilders. That forces the Dutch women to work cheaper.

The suspicion that te women are being exploited, agrees closely with the results of a recent police investigation. Eastern European criminals yearly bring approximately two thousand prostitutes to the Netherlands. The women are being trafficking for sums between five hundred and ten thousand guilders.

Behind the many Nigerian and Ghanian women also a criminal organization is suspected. They own good Itialian and Greek documents, or false ones which are hardly distinguishable from real. An additional problem is that these women change their appearance daily with the help of wigs. The police can only determine the validity of the passport with great difficulty.

From the archives of nrc:
Groter aantal prostituees Oost-Europa [Bigger number of prostitutes Eastern Europe]

By one of our editors

Tuesday March 6th 2001

Amsterdam, March 6th. “The number of prostitutes on the tippelzone on the Theemsweg in Amsterdam has strongly risen during the last year. From the numbers it arises that especially the number of Eastern European women has increased.

Recently mayor Cohen stated that the tippelzone is “chock full”. Numbers from the Begeleidingscommissie Tippelzone [guidance commission tolerance zone] acknowledge this. The numbers are based on the numbers of visitors in the Huiskamer [Living Room], the reception centre for the prostitution. This rised from on average 65 to 78. The number of Eastern European women that evening rose from 6 in 1997 to 32 in the year 2000.

Eastern European women mostly work with a pimp and the suspicion is that many of them are the victim of women trafficking. “We actually know for certain that often you can speak of a strong pressure on these women. We also suspect that they are put to work throughout the whole of Europe”, so says Jaap Fransman, manager of HVO-Querido, the foundation who runs the Huiskamer.

South-American women, until now the majority on the tippelzone, mostly work independently. They are now being ‘pushed aside’ by Eastern European, and to a lesser extent, African women.

From the archives of nrc:
Bordelen worstelen met gedoogbeleid [Brothels are struggling with policy of tolerance]

By our editor Anneke Visser

Thursday November 7th 1996

Brothel owners on de Wallen in Amsterdam are struggling with the harsh treatment of their business by the municipality. They fear that illegal prostitutes are chased to the streets because of that.


The objection of the brothel owners that because of the conduct of Patijn the Illegal prostitutes are sent to the street, is warded off by the municipality with the argument that these women are now no less than the prisoners of the brothel owners being meant. “They must hand over their passports and are often unable to move freely”, so says a spokesperson. Badoux on his turn: “That is rude. The municipality is itself responsible for this practice. Sometimes the brothel owners withhold passports, because they are to suffer when the women can’t identify themselves.”


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Red Thread Report[3]


The Red Thread report is mentioned in this article:
Legalised prostitution: a dying trade by Margreet Strijbosch, 31-10-2006

(Part 1 is over here:part 1, and here's part 2)


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Red Thread Report [2]


Part 2 of my translated bits of the Red Thread report

Rechten van prostituees... (Sietske Altink and Sylvia Bokelman, October 2006)

("Rechten van prostituees ....."="Rights of Prostitutes"):

Look here for part 1:

Red Thread report (part 1)

Points of departure
The Red Thread focuses upon the work situation of prostitutes. She considers prostitution as a profession that can only be practised voluntarily.
We turn against every form of force in prostitution. This concerns force by third persons to enter the profession, but also more subtle forms of force like for instance working more per day, per week or per year than the prostitute wants. The Red Thread believes that one can voluntarily choose the profession, but one must also be able to choose to leave. We are fighting against the unfair conditions and malpractices under which many have to do this work, against force and exploitation, in short human trafficking and modern forms of slavery.

How can you allow as a feminist that men use and degrade women for money? For years that’s a question that’s being asked to the Red Thread, but which lately sounds louder. Inspired by the Swedish model some now also call for penalizing of clients. The Red Thread is against this. Prostitutes who choose this work don’t ask for this, that they are being protected against clients, but long for respect by society and the realization of the protection of their labour laws. Moreover, by penalizing the clients an important route for victims of human trafficking will disappear.

Must the legalization of prostitution be put overboard? The answer is “No”. The Red Thread stands firmly behind the legalisation of the sex-industry under strict conditions. Although abuses still occur a lot, before 2000 they occurred to a larger extent. Turning back the legalization will undoubtly be a license for malafide persons to reintroduce this sort of misery behind the scenes.

Nonetheless we believe that there’s reason for criticism. It can and it must be all much better. It’s time that operators modernize their management and that municipalities give them the opportunity to do that by allowing innovation. Short and well: sanctions for the old operators and a warm welcome for operators who stand for a transparent management which also conforms to proper labour rights.

The national government must support the municipalities much better than they do now. A general law is possibly a contribution to the rescue of the legalization. The further demise of the sex industry only helps criminals who will in their way ‘fill the gap’.

Hereafter we will summarize point by point the conclusions of the Red Thread, how five years after the legalization we look at sexwork, and what is necessary for a better prostitution-policy.

Conclusions point by point
  1. Five years after the legalization
    . Over five years after the lifting of the general ban on brothels is long enough to evaluate the effects of the measure and the policy coupled to that measure.
    · The Red Thread has as one of the few organisations a thorough and broad insight in the true, often alarming state of affairs in the sex-industry in the Netherlands. This insight is obtained by the hundreds of visits to many types of prostitution-businesses in all parts of the country and by the many contacts with (the mainly female) sexworkers through the Red Thread-helpdesk.
    · The overall impression of the Red Thread is that there is improvement on some points, but we have a long way to go in what is to be achieved in the vision of the Red Thread; on other points the Red Thread believes the situation for sexworkers has gone worse.
    · The Red Thread believes that the change which has been strived for in the national policy-goals got stuck halfway down the road. Especially municipalities don’t know how to deal with the responsibility the government has enforced on them, and often they make a complete mess of it.
    · The government has the duty to fight human trafficking and exploitation in prostitution. That task is difficult, but the government doesn’t really put its back into it.
    · The Red Thread wants to help the government to fulfil this task using her unique expertise. According to her goals the Red Thread watches from the perspective of the sexworkers (male/female).
  2. Vision of the Red Thread on sexwork
    Vision on prostitution
    · The Red Thread observes that in society there is a (diverse) need for sexual services. She has the starting point that it’s not useful and not necessary as a society to, like it happens in Sweden, counteract that need, provided that the service can take place under acceptable conditions.
    · The Red Thread is under that condition still a proponent of the legalization of the exploitation of prostitution. The suppression of (exploitation or the buying of) sexual services leads to the going underground of the service and resulting from this the risks for the safety and danger of exploitation of the service providers.
    · The Red Thread also starts from the right of sexworkers to choose themselves how to organize their lives. It is not the task of the government or social organizations to decide for them.
    · The Red Thread chooses for an open debate that leaves the hypocrisy behind. Society should take notice that a significant percentage of the (male) population uses the services of sexworkers (male/female). It is no more than fair to recognize this and to see prostitution as a part of social life and to actively support the integration of acceptable forms of prostitution in society.
    · The Red Thread states that sexwork is not a ‘normal’ profession, because sexworkers involve their physical integrity in their job. Exactly therefore they deserve more instead of less respect that workers in other sectors.

    Vision on paid employment and independency
    · Although the Red Thread doesn’t view sexwork like a job like any other, she does believe that labour relations, -conditions and –circumstances within sexwork should conform to the standards which apply to other forms of work.
    · Specific demands should be set to protect the physical and psychological integrity of the sexworkers.
    · Sexworkers should have the choice to work in paid employment or as an independent. In both models they should comply with the accompanying duties, but they should also be able to enjoy the accompanying rights.

    Vision on exploitation and human trafficking
    · The Red Thread holds the point of view that migrants in prostitution should not be treated worse than Dutch women. Slavery-like situations cannot be tolerated with the argument that these women are better off than in their home country. The Red Thread hopes that migrants who have been wrongly put to work by an operator could exercise their rights towards him/her.
    · According to the Red Thread it is necessary to support prostitutes in a weak position in their home country in their struggle for the improvement of their position. As long as prostitutes in many countries can only work under bad conditions and have to do with extreme control of criminals, they will seek their salvation in countries like the Netherlands.
    · Not only criminal forms of recruiting of prostitutes must be targeted ferociously, but also extreme cases of exploitation in prostitution. Therefore the concept of ‘exploitation’ should be unambiguously defined and specified.
    · The Red Thread expects that a transparent management within prostitution-businesses, also on a the area of labour rights, can help to prevent abuses, and for that reason also advocates for enforcing such transparency.

    Vision on innovations in the erotic nightlife
    · The Red Thread advocates for a policy that focuses less on the ‘keeping under the thumb’ of the prostitution businesses and more on innovation of the sector.
    · Furthermore the Red Thread eyes in the first place the innovations of the labour relations, -conditions and –circumstances, and transparency of the management. A clean trade will improve the image of the trade.

    Vision on the national prostitution policy
    · The Netherlands is party in the treaty that obligates states to combat human trafficking and exploitation. The Dutch law complies with that. The Red Thread expects from the government, that they promote to the first priority of her prostitution policy: the protection of sexworkers against human trafficking, the violation of the physical and psychological integrity and exploitation. The government should create the conditions for a safe labour practice by the sexworkers, free of human trafficking and exploitation.
    · This duty rests in the first place on the national government. For as far as tasks are transferred to the municipal governments, the national government should make sure that also on that level the international obligations can be met.
    · The Red Thread observes that the policymaking by municipalities in this area has shortcomings. She believes that the decision of the national government in 2000 to make the municipalities totally responsible for the prostitution policy has been aimed too high. The subject matter is too complex for the municipalities. The Red Thread pleads for a more active national assistence for municipalities.
    · The Red Thread believes that a general prostitution law could do favours, but also a national program on expertise promotion for local policymakers, to be organized from a national centre of expertise.
    · The Red Thread rejects making the clients punishable. This endangers prostitutes unnecessarily.
    · For the Red Thread the legalization is a necessary condition for improvement.

    Vision on the municipal prostitution policy
    · The Red Thread observes that numerous abuses in the prostitution sector which are prohibited by law, are not combated actively enough. She therefore pleads for a more firmer enforcement by all (national and local) bodies who are qualified to do this, under the active direction of the municipal government.
    · As counterpart of the coordinated enforcement on a local level a national report- and spotting-centre exploitation and sexual intimidation is necessary. There prostitution can report if they are forced to work long, are not allowed to refuse clients, are forced to use the services of the club-doctor etc. Through fieldwork (visiting businesses) monitoring of abuses take place on the shop floor.
    · The Red Thread pleads for a consequent enforcement of the Bibob-law which fights against criminal owners of sex businesses.
    · Experience shows that many prostitution businesses don’t particularly organize their management neatly, what opens up exploitation of workers, tax evasion and other abuses. It is therefore necessary according to the Red Thread that municipalities enforce transparency of the management.
    · At the same time the Red Thread pleads for a generous municipal license policy in favour of those workers (independents, independents without personnel), and operators who respect the universal rules on physical and psychological safety, the labour law, transparent management and other relevant rules and legislation.
    · Following naturally from this line of argument the Red Thread pleads that the municipalities allow innovative forms of prostitution to bring about a qualitative improvement in the erotic nightlife on the short term.
    · The Red Thread pleads for an active involvement of the labour inspection the Employment Office [CWI] with the prostitution-policy.
    · The Red Thread strongly advises municipalities against forcing individual sexworkers to have a license, because after all this strategy will have a contrary effect.
    · The Red Thread therefore pleads that municipalities make sure that sexworkers can get accessible information about everything what is important in relation to their job.
    · The Red Thread desires from the municipalities that they devise an active policy and urge relevant bodies to develop an effective practice for the changeover of prostitutes to other work.
Look further in part 3:
Red Thread report (part 3)