Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Hungarian connection


Lately I noticed that the social workers are so silent about the prostitutes in the Red Light Right Districts. In my mind there’s an information-vacuum nowadays. How’s the situation now for (Eastern European) prostitutes. Are they in a better situation now? It turns out, that I’m just very forgetful. Toos Heemskerk has said something about them. Especially about the Hungarians of whom there are many in the Red Light Districts nowadays. Toos Heemskerk is a social worker for the Scharlaken Koord on de Wallen in Amsterdam and speaks with many prostitutes.

I draw from the monthly magazine of the Tot Heil des Volks, A Christian organization of which the Scharlaken Koord is a sub organization. Tot Heil des Volks also helps Christian gay people to cope with their feelings. The issue I refer to is the one from July/August 2010 volume 73 860. Here’s the link:

The issue also contains an article in support of Israel about the ‘flotilla’ to Gaza which the writer sees as the beginning of a process that will culminate into the Gog-Magog war prophesized by Ezechiel. Also very interesting, but I don’t believe in prophesies.

Toos Heemskerk went through 84 questionnaires with Hungarian women and asked among other things about the expectations that they had of the work in the Netherlands. She tells that ‘women come here with the idea to earn much money. Many women do know that they are going to work in the Netherlands as a prostitute. But of the exploitation that comes with it, they have no idea.’ Almost 20 percent of the women that Toos Heemskerk spoke to, had work weeks of 112 hours. They start at 13:00 hours and work until 5 hours at night, seven days a week. Outside the world of prostitution they have no contacts. That’s also difficult. The women speak no Dutch and their knowledge of English doesn’t often reach further than words like ‘fuck’ and ‘suck’.

In the Netherlands pimps decide where the women live and work, so the research learns. Many women rent an apartment and pay approximately 1500 to 1800 euro per month for that. Often they have to share such an apartment with others. One woman told that she had to rent a room with six other women. These women all paid 1500 euro rent. On top of that they had to pay 150 euro each day for their ‘window’.

A large segment of the Hungarian women of the Hungarian women is Roma and come from Nyíregyháza, one of the poorest cities in Hungary. Many women grow up there in state institutions where pimps recruit potential prostitutes. Toos Heemskerk tells that ‘women have their papers in order and have at their disposal a business plan of 35 pages, which they are registered with at the Chamber of Commerce. The business plan has been arranged by the Hungarian pimps, they don’t understand a word of it themselves. We hope that politics exert more control over this.’

For the Scharlaken Koord it’s difficult to give structural help to the women from Hungary. ‘The prostitutes don’t speak the Dutch language, which causes it to be difficult to find other work for them. Many Eastern European women are also not allowed to work in paid employment. Except for prostitution there is above all no other work where they could earn enough money to pay the mountainous house rent.’

‘In Hungary there’s a need for a fair and good prevention. I have spoken with a headmaster of a foster home in Hungary. She had no idea what happens with girls who were lured by pimps to the Netherlands.’

De Oogst also refers to an article in the newspaper Trouw about Hungarian network who forces women into prostitution. You can find the article here:
(De Hongaarse connectie, Perdiep Ramesar, 2 December 2009. UPDATE as of December 20, 2014: the newspaper TROUW withdrew this article because the writer refused to name his sources. He was eventually fired and the newspaper withdrew 126 of his articles. I have no clue what he actually made up in this article. I think most of it is true.)

The newspaper draws upon a confidential report of the Nationale Recherche. The Nationale Recherche refers to this gangs as the groups Lunar and Zwaan. Dozens of women have worked for this network. 40 women are known to be victim of this gang divided over 15 independently operating pimps who facilitate each other. Some members of the gang were already arrested but the gang was still operational at the time the article was written. The women were lured to the Netherlands with promises of wealth. Most didn’t know they were going to work as prostitutes.

After arrival in the Netherlands they have to work behind the windows of de Wallen of Amsterdam, the Achterdam in Alkmaar and the Geleenstraat in The Hague. Their passports are taken and their freedom of movement limited. The women only are in two places: in the red light districts where they work, and in the houses where they live. Those houses, often in Alkmaar, are arranged by the traffickers who also live there themselves. The pimps get help from four facilitators who for example arrange the houses. According to the Nationale Recherche two of them are brothel owners on the Achterdam in Alkmaar.

The women are socially isolated, speak no Dutch or English, and are often in love with their pimps. For this reason they often don’t feel victims. When new women report to the brothel owners to rent a ‘window’ often an experience victim accompanies them. Officially they are independent and report taxes to the tax department, but the pimps buy their clothes and decide other details. One of the women had to have her hair in a ponytail instead of braided.

The pimps decide the working hours and push the women to work harder. The women have to hand over all their earned money and only get some pocket money for food and drink. They have to work whole days, from early in the morning until late at night when the windows close, seven days a week. Also violence was used against them if they didn’t do what the pimps wanted or if they earned too little.

The pimps prefer not to enter the prostitution areas but keep in contact with the prostitutes by mobile telephone. One pimp earned 94361 euro from four prostitutes in seven months. Another earned 219707 euro with three prostitutes in fourteen months.

So for me personally: what’s the lesson?

That nothing has changed. Everything remains the same. The women know that they will work in prostitution. But they are exploited to the bone.

So it is important to look beyond the smiling faces and realize for me that there’s a lot of misery behind that and that only a little bit of money that I pay to them goes to the women.

Always important to keep on realizing this..... every week.

The happy sex worker doesn’t exist. Deep down they all hate their work.

Lately I had it again. I was in a place where brothels are very nearby. The Zandpad is just a half-an-hour walk from the Central Station along the canal the Oudegracht going into the Vecht. My mind was continuously in battle. Deep down a little voice says that there are no problems in prostitution. As a zombie I walked across the window-boats. The girls smiling in their red lights. Unfortunately the distance between prostitute and client is bigger than in other window prostitution streets, the bridges over the water are several meters long, so the prostitutes are more difficult to observe. What is striking are the Moroccans and other immigrant men who hang around, walking by, driving by in cars with the four of them. Are they just viewers? Just clients? Just friends? I see three Moroccan men walking across a bridge towards a girl behind a window. They talk for a while. Did I just see her very quickly grab something from her bra and give it to them? Was that imagination? They walk back to their cars. I also see Latin American women having extensive contact with groups of men. They spoke Dutch. What their relationships are? I don’t know. Are they just friends? I was in the Doubletstraat in The Hague a year ago and what is noticeable are the large number of black men who are just standing there. What their roles are? I don’t know. On de Wallen you rarely see men being so clearly present.

I have to stir up my conscience.

Sex/work is abuse work.

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