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The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan reports
"The move to lift the ban is considered ambitious"
 real 28k

Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
Dutch OK sex for sale
Prostitutes have mixed feelings about the law changes
By Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague

Brothels become legal in The Netherlands on Sunday in a controversial effort to control the world of prostitution.

The new law gives the government a possibility to get a hold on the sex industry

Just Wiarda, Ministry of Justice
Brothels, although officially banned, have been allowed to operate under lax conditions.

Now they will be made legal and treated the same way as any other business, with stricter controls and tougher penalties for abuses such as involuntary and under-age prostitution.

Dutch brothels will be treated like any other business
An estimated 30,000 people work as prostitutes in The Netherlands.

Just Wiarda, of the Ministry of Justice, said: "The new law gives the government a possibility to get a hold on the sex industry and to combat the exploitation of prostitution by minors and adults who are forced to prostitute themselves and to reduce prostitution by illegal immigrants."

But Andre Rouvoet, an opposition member of Parliament, said: "I think that's rather naive to think that you can ban crime by legalising it.

Ancient Romans required prostitutes to wear distinctive dress and pay severe taxes
Large public brothels were set up in Europe in the Middle Ages
At Toulouse, profits were shared between the city and the university
In England, brothels were licensed by the bishops of Winchester
"There are lots of ways to combat these abuses, like we have means of fighting trade in women, but you don't need to legalise the prostitution to fight the criminal organisations that bring the women in."

Although brothels will be run professionally from now on, many prostitutes who work in them, are freelance and feel the new law does nothing to improve their situation.

Big taboo

Ellie Teunissen, of the support group, Prostitution Project Foundations, said: "This will not change anything. To be a prostitute is a secret for themselves and for their family.

"The bank don't accept the situation of prostitutes & they can't get a loan for example buying a house, the health insurance system refuse the prostitutes for they are a high risk group.

Most sex workers keep their jobs secret
"We must co-operate with different organisations to regulate the rights of prostitutes - they are not organised at all so they have to demand their rights with different organisations."

The Prostitutes Union, the Red Thread, is expecting a high turnout at its national information day on Sunday.

But so far, most prostitutes still feel part of a big taboo, and most likely, will not attend.

The Dutch move comes days after a British court ordered a 64-year-old woman who admitted running brothels in North London to hand over 2m ($2.93m) of her ill-gotten gains.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | UK
Madam has 2m confiscated
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sex workers fight for their rights
09 Jun 00 | Talking Point
Sex slaves: Are we turning a blind eye?
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