Friday, September 21, 2007

Amsterdam's Brothels

Amsterdam to cut back on brothels
Amsterdam's red light district (file photo)
The 700-year-old red light district is a big tourist attraction
The Dutch city of Amsterdam is to close one-third of the brothels in its famous red light district.

The city has reached a 25m euro (£18m) deal to buy 18 buildings and turn them into shops or housing.

The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said that although prostitution was legal in the Netherlands, there was too much of the sex trade in the city centre.

He also said that the trade involved exploitation and trafficking of women, and other kinds of criminal activity.

Dirty money

Prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district ply their trade in neon-lit street windows and the area's seediness has always been part of its attraction for tourists.

Under the deal, 51 of these windows - a third of the total - will be sold.

The Wallen, as the area is known in Dutch, is in one of the oldest and most picturesque areas of Amsterdam.

But the city's authorities say the windows are a magnet for crime and money laundering.

Mr Cohen said the move was not intended to get rid of prostitution entirely, since it is part of the area's history.

"What we do want is to get rid of the underlying criminality," he said.

We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women
Metje Blaak
De Rode Draad

However, the plan was criticised by the Dutch sex workers' union De Rode Draad.

"We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women," spokeswoman Metje Blaak told Agence France-Presse news agency.

"If the windows close down, women who are being exploited will be hidden somewhere else where union representatives and health workers can't make contact with them," she said.

Prostitutes hire the windows for around 100 euros (£70, $141) for part of the day. One window is usually used by several prostitutes a day.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Job

Dear family and friends,

I would just like to inform you that I will begin working at Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders in English and Artsen Zonder Grenzen in Dutch) here in their Amsterdam office beginning sometime in October. My start date is dependent on when I get my residence/work permit, which should be the end of September/early October.

For those of you who are not familiar with this organization - it is a well-known, very admirable humanitarian organization which operates around the world providing medical aid in emergency situations, i.e. conflict/post-conflict areas and in regions affected by natural disasters. They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for their work. Also, they cooperate closely with various United Nations' agencies, the International Red Cross, and many more international and non-governmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world.

My role will be to work with the Director of Operations in managing the coordination of the various field operations. The Amsterdam office is one of the main operational centers for MSF so it will be a very exciting and rewarding job. I hope to assume a great deal of responsibility in facilitating the field operations. At this time I will not have to travel to the field, but it may be required in the future if working in another capacity with the organization (which I am not ruling out at this point in time).

To read about MSF and their work, see their website here: