Amsterdam’s Red Light District sex workers are getting ready to go back to work after the coronavirus lockdown.
They say they can’t wait to get back to business on July 1, a date that marks the end of a lockdown that began on March 12, two weeks after the first Covid-19 case was identified in the Netherlands.
On that day Prime Minister Mark Rutte held a press conference at which he asked everyone in the country to work from home as much as possible, effectively closing the Red Light District.
But sex workers, who tend to be self-employed with little in the way of resources to fall back on, have suffered financially more than most.
In a small survey of the city’s sex workers, a little over half of respondents said they had applied for government support while they were unable to work. Of that 56%, only 13% said they had been offered help.
Even those receiving the €1,050 monthly benefits struggle to make ends meet in a city where average rents are in the region of €1,000 a month.
Many of the girls had been forced to work in secret – increasing the risks associated with their work.
One Amsterdam escort, Charlotte de Vries, told the New York Times that before lockdown if customers became violent, sex workers would call the police. “But now you can’t do that,” she says, “because what you’re doing is illegal.”
Local media reports claimed that many of the sex workers – some of whom hail from Eastern Europe – were forced to return to their homelands to live with their parents as they could not afford the cost of living in the Netherlands.
The government has now given the green light for workers in Amsterdam’s famous Red Light district and elsewhere to return to work.
However, the world they are returning to looks set to be very different than the one they knew before – for both sex workers and their clients.
One woman who gave her name as Felicia told local media that she is not scared of the risks upon returning to work.
She said: “We will do everything we can to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible.”
Elaborating, she said that each entire room will be cleaned after each session including all objects.
All sex activity will be allowed, as long as it is practised with a condom.
Meanwhile, the sex workers wash their hands and body thoroughly and inspect customers beforehand.
She added: Of course there is a chance that you will catch the virus, but that is also possible if you are in the Albert Heijn supermarket.
“Anything is better than being locked up in your apartment, as has been the case over the past few months”.