It’s important to visit this area in context. Every major town and city has certain quarters known for libidos commerce. Whether you live in London, Lisbon or L.A., you know where they are. It’s the oldest trade and will probably be the last, too. So it’s important to visit Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District with this comparison in mind.
It’s with this in mind that legalizing prostitution is an astounding success; the idea was to take this inevitable trade out the criminal depths and eradicate trafficking and pimping. And it’s worked. The women (and men) are here by choice, work the hours they want and answer to no one but themselves. They even pay tax.
Amsterdam isn’t a licentious magnet advocating sexual exploitation. It is an honest city that has conceded that there will always be prostitution and has pledged to make it safe for the practitioners, whilst other cities turn a blind eye to the horrific squalor and exploitation as they publicly pledge to eradicate the inevitable.
What is striking about the Red Light District is that it is safe; women pass through alone and school children and families are often seen touring. Now think of the areas you know in your home where prostitutes operate.
There is currently a movement to dissolve the Red Light District amidst complaints from locals that some of the best architecture in historic Amsterdam is given over to undesirable trades. So the government has stepped in and banned the opening of any business in the area considered undesirable: tourist shops, coffee shops, new windows, kebab shops, etc, whilst offering low-zero rents for desirable business: independent clothes shops, museums, art galleries. And it’s working. Don’t be surprised to look up from a red window to see a family gathered around the table having super in the heart of the district.