Amsterdam set to impose curfew on its red light district

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Amsterdam plans to raise the minimum age for prostitutes from 18 to 21 and force brothels to close during early morning hours.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan yesterday said the moves came from a decision to crack down on crime in the city’s infamous red light district and protect prostitutes – who are predominantly women – from abuse. Amsterdam has about 8,000 prostitutes, the city estimates, half of whom operate behind windows with red velvet curtains and red lights. Mr Van der Laan said under the new regime, all windows would be closed from 4am-9am.

Prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands in 2000. It has been tolerated in Amsterdam since the 1600s, when the spice trade made it one of the world’s wealthiest port cities. But the city has been tightening its rules since 2006 and closed a third of its brothel windows from 2007 to 2009.

Mr Van der Laan said the city intended to introduce the new measures by July.

“We think the situation is so grave that we have to act,” he told a press conference.

He said young prostitutes were particularly vulnerable because they were often groomed by pimps who force them into service when they turned 18. He said the city’s priority was to keep women from being pushed into prostitution and its second was to help those who wish to get out of the sex trade. Other measures he plans to introduce include forcing brothel owners to submit a business plan.