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Culture Express : Amsterdam's crackdown on its red light district

【明報專訊】Windows framed by red neon lights, sex workers posing and oozing seduction (魅力十足)... These are the first impressions the red light district in Amsterdam gives to tourists. Attempts to crack down on Amsterdam's red light district are by no means something new. In the government's eyes, the district is related to human trafficking and organised crime, and the country's liberal attitude has been exploited. In late March, the city government ordered tours around the area be banned, starting from 1 Jan, 2020, in the name of solving the problems of overcrowding and providing a better working environment for sex workers. Also, the deputy mayor of the city said it would be inappropriate for tourists to "leer at" (色迷迷地看) sex workers.

People from both the sex worker and tour guide industries disagree. First, banning tours means there will be no tour guides helping tourists behave politely. Second, it will affect unrelated tourist attractions.

People keen to join the tours are perhaps fond of the unique spectacles (奇事). Even if they do not intend to participate in indecent activities, they can at least feast their eyes (大飽眼福) on attractive ladies. This area is old. As is the debate over the industry. The struggle between the municipal government and the business seems too ancient. Is the city too confident to solve this 700-year-old problem? The way the prostitutes show their bodies has been controversial, even inside this seemingly isolated area. Not only is the district a gold mine for sex workers, but it is also one for coffee shops, party stores etc. It is doomed (注定要) to offend many vested interests (既得利益).

The Netherlands has been liberal — perhaps a second home to "heretics" (異端) like the philosopher Descartes. But how about the sex industry? Should it be treated in the same way? This could yield no definite answer. What do you think — is there a one-size-fits-all solution?

■Text: Staff Reporter

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