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This time, my «freedom radar» stops in Amsterdam, famous for its «live and let live» attitude. But those times obviously seem to have gone now.

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Did you know that in Amsterdam city, a new legislative proposal has received approval, meaning that in a short time, a segment of the working people – those aged 18, 19 and 20 – are not defined as adults anymore? Logically, they are the same age as other people aged 18, 19 and 20. Still, the state has recently decided that in the respected sex worker business, you are suddenly not an adult capable of making your own decisions before you are 21. This is an age limit completely unlike other health-related occupations. Nevertheless, you are allowed to use the «drug» religion or to work in a supermarket from a much younger age. This is a discriminatory piece of work lacking parallels, and what is even worse; it is blatant stigmatisation.

A dark moralising cloud is currently hovering over this beautiful city, and instead of pushing the cloud away, the Amsterdam city lets bigotry rain over its citizens and visitors.

All of this is happening in Amsterdam – of all places.

Amsterdam is about to spread taboos and stigma throughout the city
Even the liberal city Amsterdam has walked straight into the moralist trap with its unwise move away from normalisation. Prioritising freedom and normalisation has been a previously deserved trademark of Amsterdam. But from now on, Amsterdam will receive the little flattering brand of a neo-moralistic city. By a stroke of the pen the politicians have sent hundreds of migrant and local sex workers aged 18, 19 and 20 in two directions: into unemployment or even worse, straight underground and into the illegal market. It is downright naïve to believe that one will succeed in this type of legislation. The police will have their hands full searching for those who are missing from their former work location and also didn´t return home, because they have been forced into a clandestine work environment. The protecting layer of transparency will be gone: what utter tragedy!

A tad of psychology and philosophy
The philosopher Penny Gelder says in her manifesto Taboo Eraser: «Nothing in this world is peculiar before someone says it is.» Acceptance is the best way to combat taboos, because taboos always arise as a direct result of moralising agendas. To render something normal is the only way to build a lasting respect and an understanding that will embrace the following generations. Until now, Amsterdam has been a pioneering force in this regard.

Not surprisingly, this denouncing bill came from a Christian-Democrat named Ernst Hirsch Ballin. It is symptomatic that moralising proposals get an initial degree of sympathy from the citizens and the media: «It’s great for the young workers that they get some help!» or «Yes, we take responsibility for the common good of the poor victims!»

After learning the true nature of this bill, and that such laws are particularly devastating as taboos and stigma always surface in the aftermath, the sympathy will surely turn into harsh criticism.

The act of differentiating illogically, and thereby generating taboos, is often associated with small and somewhat unsophisticated countries: Norway introduced a law against buying sex in 2009 (also known as the so-called Swedish model). Yes, you read correctly. After four years of increasing condemnation and an uncovering of the dire consequences, this law will probably be repealed in the near future. Several political parties will not tolerate this law anymore. The advocators of the law are currently heavily criticised in the daily press and their ulterior motives have been disclosed: they have implemented a ban on something they do not like. Lawsuits against the state and the persons behind it are likely to occur after the ban has been repealed in Norway. There is hope for small countries, too.

Brain

X-ray, sex work and football
Let us return to Amsterdam. The politicians are about to deprive people in this city the opportunity to perform honest health-related work for three years of their adulthood. If you are 18 years old, you are by definition an adult – that is, until now. The alleged reason there is a specific age to define adulthood is so that people should be allowed to pursue their own choices, without any interference from a Nanny State. Many are also in their «prime mental and aesthetic age» around 18, and an experience within the field of sex work may also be very exciting and rewarding; something one might look back on with pleasure later in life, an experience not everyone is granted. Obviously this profession has some challenging aspects as well. But this is true for many other professions. Life is dynamic. «Money Talks» in all professions; such are the realities. The closest you may come to a prime solution in this matter is to optimise the working conditions for all.

One is tempted to wonder whether the Amsterdam city has used X-ray to scan the brains of people in order to find biological proof to decide if people are too immature for sex work before they have reached 21. If this is the case, the only logical consequence that follows is that the age of consent must also be raised to 21 years in Amsterdam.

If one had a similar law in sports, it would be like denying a talented footballer in great shape to play for a team when he’s 18. He would have to wait until he is 21 before he was allowed to play on a team that fitted his personality and talent, even if he was more than ready for the team at age 18.

Personal freedom, philosophers and clairvoyance
Any national assembly ought to have a large banner hanging in the assembly hall: «Never tamper with personal freedom.» – in order to prevent moralising ideas to permeate legislation. Like a tree, liberty can take years to grow, but can be cut down within a few seconds.

When moralist politicians propose bills, it is perhaps an idea that the government consult renowned philosophers and intellectuals devoid of religious convictions to assist them in seeing through moralist intentions. Unbiased philosophy may add a clear vision and a long-term perspective in ways that exceed education within political science.

The reasoning used by the City of Amsterdam
I will in the following comment on the grounds in the February 2013 press release from the Amsterdam city in an attempt to be constructive, but the bottom line may be summed up in a few sentences: If you have an issue with safety, then do something to improve safety. If there is a problem with control, do something to improve the control.

  • On security:

I have been to Amsterdam on official matters innumerable times through several years, and I have come to talk to many people working in the Red Light District – workers from all over the world and workers below and over 21. The need and desire for stability and security is at least as great for those over 21 as the ones who are younger. Therefore, the argument considering security is self-contradictory. This argument must be based on moralising or false objectives; the most degrading of all intentions.

All citizens have the right to protection regardless of profession. When the politicians introduce this illogical age limit, they add insult to injury, and those aged 18, 19 and 20 will be forced underground with their work; leaving them much more open to harm and riskier practices. With abolition comes an increase in organised crime; which would be impossible to combat.

  • On order, brawls and drunken people:

People looking for trouble are to be found anywhere. But being loud does not necessarily equal looking for trouble. On most occasions, drunken people are more unpleasant than dangerous. Many would argue that it is easy to party hard in a «cool» city like Amsterdam; especially tourists. Unfortunately, dangerous situations may arise in the Red Light District – as well as in the homes of families with alcoholic family members, or in public areas for that matter. Of course intoxicated persons could cause trouble for those who are working. You could put up clear signs at all entry points of the RLD stating «Sex workers are not comfortable working with aggressive and highly intoxicated people. Would you be?». You may also want to distribute the police patrolling in the RLD somewhat differently.

  • On opening hours:

In my opinion, the restriction on opening hours is the only thing in the bill that is close to acceptable. This is in line with other professionally run shops, night clubs and restaurants in the city, and will contribute to a statistical protection of the citizens’ and workers’ health. But the opportunity to work overtime must be present as in other professions.

  • On control of sex workers and possible coercion:

As for this matter, there are many obvious opportunities for control. Summon to information sessions. Collaborate on the de-stigmatising of sex workers in public and in the media. Collaborate with the sex workers´ own organisations. One may interview the workers where they fill in a questionnaire to map out their needs. Transparency is important. A capacity for positive restructuring is necessary, and a general call for order and cooperation with the police are vital measures. We are talking about money and political priority.

god

Amsterdam city is playing God
The politicians of Amsterdam think they will escape massive criticism by claiming that this law is for the best for the sex workers. What audacity! Who do they think they are? God?

The mechanisms of moralising politics are always the same: A calculating play on the public’s conscience using the argument «we’re only helping the victims.» This is a classical instance of conflating trafficking and sex work. Perhaps one should introduce an age limit of 21 to use the drug named Christianity instead, and see what happens? Surely, the field of psychiatry has to deal with a huge number of patients damaged by religion compared to sex work.

Remember, you can only speak for yourself, and if you speak for others you have to be sure that you have understood them correctly. Now Amsterdam city has fallen into the trap of believing they can speak for others. This is not «live and let live». They have stated in a typical moralistic fashion – which must be considered extremely rude – quote: «[we will] strengthen the prostitutes’ position.»

Pushing hundreds of people underground or into unemployment and further stigmatising sex work by claiming that a sex worker is not professionally mature enough by 18, and less mentally developed than other people (yes, one does suggest this by raising the age limit in one part of the health profession and not in the entire segment) is an obvious stigma and will not «strengthen the prostitutes’ position» at all. I regret to say this, but this play on people’s moral and conscience cannot and must not go unchallenged. I believe that Amsterdam has powers that can report the municipality on grounds of discrimination, should it become necessary. «We had to do something», the politicians said; an obvious attempt to achieve the sympathy of the people. This is a subjective claim. They have to continually work to improve many conditions in all communities: economy, alcoholism, drug abuse, schooling, psychiatry, the elderly etc. Such is the world; and of all people the politicians ought to acknowledge this.

This new law will certainly affect the economy of the city (loss of tax income, tourism) as well as the loss of control on the whole when the illegal and underground market starts to flourish. To believe that one is able to exclude an adult group from working in a legal profession because of their age is at best very naïve, and at worst very harmful, discriminatory and derogatory. When the initial phase of this law has passed, the people and the media will realise the real consequences of this law: they will see what harm it has led to. This always happens with moralising laws. As stated before, Norway is an obvious example to underline my point: After a few horrifying years of the irrational Sex Purchase Law the ban is gradually falling apart, and the massive suffering it has accumulated leads to frequent media attention. This law will be removed in foreseeable future.

Although Amsterdam has been trapped by the typical Socialist and Christian moralising arguments for now, the politicians of Amsterdam have the possibility to alter decisions when they see the consequences of failed politics. The recent decision to repeal the law on coffee shop “Wietpas” for its citizens (and prohibiting foreign visitors from entering and buying) is a clear example of a swift decision made to avoid unfortunate consequences. Now Amsterdam has the possibility to change the current decision before it is too late and the clandestine and uncontrollable market spreads further.

I really hope that Amsterdam city will start using reason this time too, and that they will learn not to tamper with personal freedom. This way it can continue being «the welcoming city of Amsterdam.» However, I cannot honour a municipality that does not respect adults having a legal job when in fact they are adults. The municipality has been caught in the never changing trap of moralism: They are playing God.

As I understand it, there are people living in Amsterdam seriously considering moving away because of the clear ideological change from «live and let live» to «live like we want you to» – and no, these are not sex workers, but people who now feel violated on behalf of the personal freedom that has been a part of Amsterdam throughout the years.

Why not use the near future to reconsider; to take in the tragic consequences such a law will entail. Then this may end fairly; back to the age limit of 18 – applying to everyone and every form of adult occupation.

Wsexworkstatuee should all listen to the wise inscription on the statue in Amsterdam Red Light District: «Respect sex workers all over the world.»

Mary Ann Parker (MAP)

I Am Amsterdam

I wish I could say so, too…

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Greetings & welcome to my first blog.

Being interested in philosophy and psychological mechanisms, it is my sincere wish to use this blog to share a few reflections on how to embrace the world with freedom based on this.

Let´s start in Norway – a country that supposedly has been renowned for its previously international peace work, but now it is breaking numerous human rights itself with their «Sex Purchase Law» (what an extremely ridiculous name for a law, by the way).

In a so-called enlightened era, this country has gone in a most obvious unsophisticated trap with their moral based and logically unintelligible sex ban, something this blog I came across shows. In this regard, I also found an interesting and informative stage play with a pure logical and philosophical focus.

How can a state do such evil against its own people? No wonder there are wars in the world and that life might seem pointless.

I hope Norway can regain respect and be free again. For sure, small countries that abuse their citizens are unfortunately «cruel classics» that I have little desire to visit.

Mary Ann Parker (MAP)