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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 05:00 GMT 06:00 UK
Dutch launch sex workers' first union
Prostitute talking to a customer
Prostitutes want the same rights as other workers
By the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague

One year after the Dutch Government lifted the ban on brothels, workers in the sex industry have announced they are forming the world's first trade union for prostitutes.

Since brothels have been legalised, Dutch prostitutes have been campaigning for more recognition as professional workers.

Amsterdam's red light district
Dutch brothel owners must operate strict standards
At a news conference to mark the first anniversary on Monday of the abolition of the brothel ban, members of the Red Thread - the prostitutes' association - said they are celebrating the big step forward that their profession has taken in the past year.

As freelance workers they have long complained they were discriminated against by banks and insurance companies but last month they won a lengthy battle against the powerful ING Bank and can now operate normal business accounts.

Existing safeguards

The regularisation of the sex industry has brought with it a string of safeguards for prostitutes - the victims of women traffickers no longer work illegally in brothels; brothel owners must adhere to strict hygiene and security standards and declare their business dealings to the tax authorities.

When the new trade union, which has yet to be named, becomes official next year, the men and women who work in the sex industry will gain the same rights as regular employees in the service sector.

They will belong to the national trade union federation and draw up a collective labour agreement with their bosses in the brothels.

The members of the Red Thread say it is high time they are able to shake off the stigma of the marginalised prostitute and begin to function as respected members of modern society.

See also:

30 Sep 00 | Europe
Dutch OK sex for sale
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
More Iranian prostitutes murdered
14 Mar 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh says prostitution legal
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