Also the window brothels in the Hardebollenstraat will be closed down. A couple of months ago also some other window prostitution boats of some smaller brothel owners have been closed down. But now also the last brothel operator has to close its windows. This operator owns window brothels in the Hardebollenstraat and the Zandpad. I haven't mentioned the earlier closures on my blog because I wanted to wait it out. There were signs that the last remaining brothel company (Wegra) could buy the closed brothels of the other brothel owners. But this didn't work out anyway. Pity for them. They had recently renovated many of the boats and even a new sidewalk was laid. It looked really modern. (UPDATE: As it turns out, Wegra and the other operators didn't 'own' the boats. Somebody else owns it, and rents the boats to Wegra et al, who rent the boats to the prostitutes. UPDATE: It seems as if this Jan de Graaf of Wegra really seems to own the boats after all!!!! I don't understand it anymore!!! Read this on the website of Henk Jan Korterink: Romantiek van het Zandpad)
The reason of the closure?: they didn’t prevent evil pimps from putting their women to work on the Zandpad. They even did business with these evil pimps as can be read in some verdicts on rechtspraak.nl (okay, just one it turns out). So the municipality of Utrecht decided not to renew the permits. I can understand the municipality. Especially during the evening you sometimes see young Moroccan men approach and harass the prostitutes on the Zandpad. The brothel owners did nothing about it.
Unfortunately, the women (or their pimps) have to find another place to work. I think it should have been arranged better, perhaps by way of some compensation for the prostitutes, if they don’t give it to their pimps anyway. At the end, the municipality closed the brothels to help the prostitutes, so why not actually help the prostitutes? But I understand, they have financial problems in these economically difficult times. They simply can't help the prostitutes. (I mean it, they can't)
This has a big impact. The Zandpad had many window brothels. It had some 143 windows. Perhaps some 200 prostitutes worked there.
Once, there were more than 2000 window brothels in the Netherlands. That number has now dropped below a thousand. And the funny thing is that not all the brothels are rented by prostitutes. Reportedly 30% of the windows are unoccupied. Also many sex clubs and privéhuizen are closed (you know the privéhuizen are sex clubs without a bar where clients and prostitutes can drink alcohol). Few prostitutes want to work there. Few clients come. Many brothels simply went bankrupt. I think prostitution is disappearing. The clients are disappearing. The prostitutes are disappearing. I extrapolate that within 10 or 20 years it will have almost completely disappeared. The number of prostitutes has probably halved during the last 15 years. Prostitution is outdated.
Anyway, I can be happy. Now I can drink a beer in a café in the city centre of Utrecht without the pernicious urge to talk a half-an-hour walk to the Zandpad.
(Okay, that's my own choice, I know. I could decide not to take the walk of shame.)
Now, the municipality has offered other persons to buy the brothels, if they stick to the rules. But I expect nobody will take the risk. Also some prostitutes are trying to get the boats back and form some kind of joint venture ('coörperatie' in Dutch, there doesn't seem to be an English word). I think they will fail. They don't have the power, the money.
Now that I think about it, why didn't the municipality of Amsterdam do the same thing with the Wallen? Instead of buying some brothels for tens of millions of euros. What Utrecht is doing is much cheaper. Amsterdam could do the very same thing.
BTW: this is oil on the fire for abolitionists. They can now point to Utrecht and say:
SEE THAT LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION DOESN'T WORK???
They are right. It doesn't work.
UPDATE: I must apologize because it seems as if I don’t really care about the prostitutes. And perhaps I really don’t care, I don’t know anymore. Obviously the municipality of Amsterdam should have invested the tens of millions directly into helping the prostitutes, not incarcerating them by the way. And the reason that I’m cheerful about the closure of the Zandpad is because I regularly went to a place in Utrecht to socialize and drink a couple of beers or other beverages, until I found out that the Zandpad is only a half-an-hour walk away from that place. I could only think about going to the Zandpad while I was there, and often I did, ending up straight into the rooms of the prostitutes. Obviously, I am a grown-up person and I can make choices for myself, and I should make the right choices. I am responsible for my own behaviour. But I stopped visiting this place in Utrecht to socialize because of this. That’s why I’m happy!!! For the victims of human trafficking on the Zandpad things don’t change because they will simply be relocated by their pimps to other window prostitution areas where lots of windows are unrented. I think many of the free and independent prostitutes will follow suit. Remember, that many prostitutes regularly relocate to other brothels because they hope they can make more money because clients like new women. I think that the very poor prostitutes who don’t make a lot of money but who are independent could be really harmed by the closure of the Zandpad. I think the municipality has a duty to help them and the forced prostitutes. But things will be difficult, because often forced prostitutes are too afraid to seek help because they fear the revenge of the pimps.
UPDATE 2: It seems that I cheered too early. A security company seems to be having the idea of taking over the boats. Will they take the risk??? Read here:
Nieuwe uitbater dingt naar exploitatie Zandpad (De Utrechtse Internet Courant, July 8, 2013)
Some prostitutes (around 60) also have protested at the municipality of Utrecht with banners and they handed over a petition to Aleid Wolfsen, the mayor. Read and see it all on RTL nieuws:
I think the prostitutes are right. The municipality should have been more clear about what was going to happen. Now the municipality of Utrecht has released a press release. The windows will close July 25, 2013. And it turns out the municipality of Utrecht does want to help the prostitutes after all. Social workers actively seek contact with prostitutes but they don’t mediate with finding another place to work. The municipality also wants to help the prostitutes to form some kind of joint venture (coörperatie) to operate the boats themselves. Like has been said before, another company wants to take over the exploitation of the boats too. The boats (it turns out) are not owned by the operators who run the boats at this moment. The operators simply rent to boats from the real owner, and then the operators rent it out to the prostitutes. Read it all in the press release by the municipality of Utrecht.
Utrecht trekt vergunningen in van exploitant raamprostitutie (July 11, 2013)
I think it will take time before all the licenses have been arranged, so the boats will be empty for a long while. But, because the prostitutes don’t have to buy the boats themselves (they will have to rent them from the real owners), I think such a joint venture between the prostitutes might actually work!! And, it will be cheaper because now there is one intermediary less. Well, I wish them good luck, but not to myself. I think I cheered to early.
I still believe that the women could easily find another place to work, and that the illegal sector is not so bad as often thought. The fear of many is that the prostitutes will move ‘underground’ (and some pimps have offered their services to prostitutes to find a new place to work). But I think the ‘underground’ is not necessarily bad. The ‘underground’ has beautiful houses and hotels with showers and good sanitation. I think many houses and hotels are better than many brothels.
Yes, the windows are really closed now. Wegra lost before the court.
I checked which rechtspraak.nl documents point at collaboration between the brothel operators on the Zandpad and the pimps. Actually it is only one verdict in which this seems to be the case. I thought there were two others, but I think I misinterpreted them. I will point to the verdict. It has the code: ECLI:NL:RBUTR:2011:BQ6884, and you can find it here online (in Dutch):
I write about it in this post on my blog:
I will quote from the verdict (translated into English):
One day, [suspect] took her to Utrecht. He spoke there with people of the office of the little boats. On the day that [victim 2] received her residence pass, on June 9, 2009, [suspect] contacted the boss of the Zandpad. After this, he ordered her to go to this boss to let herself be registered. Via a telephone she received instructions from [suspect] how she had to walk and what she had to say to him. On June 11, 2009 [victim 2] started working as a prostitute.This phrase could be interpreted in multiple ways. It could be true that the 'boss' collaborated with the pimp. But we don't know what was actually said. Perhaps the boss just said that he doesn't do business with pimps, and that the woman should come herself. That's why later the pimp sent the woman alone to the boss. But in anyway, the 'boss' should have been forewarned.
I forgot to mention many things. Some of the prostitutes of de Zandpad say there is no forced prostitution on de Zandpad. This is absolutely untrue!!! But I understand that they say it, because they lost their place of work. Also, there is some doubt about the arguments the municipality is using to close the windows. One former employee of Wegra even appeared on TV to argue that he absolutely DIDN'T do business with human traffickers, and that he hasn't been charged of doing anything. I also forgot to mention that lots of information regarding the accusations of the municipality can be found in a secret report, which has to remain secret because some investigations are still under way. But this way nobody has the chance to know if the brothel operators really did do business with the human traffickers. The only hint can be found above in that rechtspraak.nl-file.
It seems that I have overlooked a case where the brothels owners of the Zandpad seem to be doing business with human traffickers. It is the Sneep-case! With Saban B. It is this verdict on rechtspraak.nl:
It has the code ECLI:NL:RBUTR:2011:BP7662
It is the case of one person called Cillekes Ö.
I will quote from it (translated into Dutch):
From the content of the sms-messages the court derives that [involved person 29] handed over the money that she earned as a prostitute, to the suspect. He appeared with her on the Zandpad. He arranged rooms for her. In the wiretapped telephone conversations between [suspect Saban B] and the suspect the court reads that the suspect not only let his wife work as a prostitute but also a certain [S]. [Involved person 29] states at the examining judge that her work name wasn’t [S]. [S] according to her was the woman from [place of residence], with whom she shared a room for four or five weeks and a workroom. From one of the wiretapped telephone conversations it emerges that the suspect interfered with her in January 2007. From this it follows that the suspect means in this wiretapped telephone conversation with ‘my wife’ [involved person 29] and calls [S] by her name and that he tries to arrange a workroom for both of them in consultation with [Suspect Saban B]. [Involved person 29] feels exploited, she is only good enough to work as a prostitute for him.You can also read about this case on my blog here:
The municipality also accuses the brothel owners of overlooking signs of human trafficking, like a pregnant woman behind the window, a woman with a broken leg behind the window, women with tattoos showing their boyfriend's name behind the window, etc.... I must admit that it is very difficult to determine if these women are forced because of these reasons, because many people have tattoos with names of their children or lovers on their bodies. And some people keep on working with a broken leg or while being pregnant, so that's not strange.
Why exactly the municipality chose to terminate the licenses of the brothel owners can be found in these verdicts on rechtspraak.nl:
To be short and sweet: The brothel owners partly subcontracted their activities to a shared company which supervised the Zandpad. Some of the employees of this company seem to be involved in human trafficking. Behind the scenes these employees allegedly did business with human traffickers. The investigation is still ongoing, so the details are secret. Furthermore, the employees/managers of Wegra who managed the Zandpad asked the prostitutes for extra money, which had to be paid by the prostitutes to them individually. That means a sort of corruption. Furthermore, these managers weren't screened by the municipality, so they weren't even allowed to do their job. And one of these managers is a main suspect in a human trafficking case, which is still being investigated, so the details are secret. And the brothel owners are charged with looking the other way while evidently some prostitutes were forced (for instance, allowing a pregnant woman and the same woman with a broken leg to work, and many times prostitutes had tatoos on their bodies with the names of their boyfriends, which is also suspiciuous).
I forgot to mention that most human traffickers seem to avoid direct contact with the brothel operators. They usually send the women alone to the brothel operators, so the women independently arrange their workplace. But in some cases the brothel operators seem to be doing business directly with the human traffickers.
And it seems as if the security company is well on the way of exploiting 10 boats on the Zandpad! They only have to be screened.
The cooperation of prostitutes is not going to work, it seems. They don't have the money, as I suspected.`
Sietske Altink (formerly a worker of the red thread, the small union for prostitutes which recently went bankrupt) confirms the bad stories about the brothel owners of the Zandpad. Read it here:
She tells for instance that in 2001 the red thread spoke with social workers who had contact with prostitutes on the Zandpad. According to the social workers, "third persons" arrange things for prostitutes. Sietske Altink also confirms that the brothel owners demand 'key-money' form the prostitutes, or extort the prostitutes. Employees of the brothel owners also intimidate the prostitutes, and intervene when a client complains (on behalf of the client). Prostitutes sometimes are fired without a reason, while at the same time they don't get the money back which they had paid in advance. Women also complain about the excessive rents, and the fact that they have to pay extra for rooms with air-conditioning. In 2008 prostitutes complain that they are harassed by Bulgarian men. In 1997 women complain that certain taxi drivers work for Wegra, and these taxi drivers interrogate the women about the earnings. In 1997 the women also complain about Moroccans who extort the women.