Sunday, 5 October 2008

Leaving Amsterdam with mixed feelings

Until visiting this city I had never thought about the criminal offence of talking on a mobile phone while riding a bicycle, nor had I ever seen multi-storey bike racks. It is also strange to wander around a city and have your nostrils assaulted by dope fumes every so often - perhaps this was more frequently the case before the recent outlawing of smoking in public places throughout the Netherlands.
Seeing women standing in back-lit neon rooms dressed in very little at all disturbed me and I don't think it was just middle class distaste at the aesthetics of the sex industry being so obviously part of everyday life. So as I glimpsed these women and hurriedly looked the other way I wondered whether they were local women or trafficked women, whether they were in charge of their own working hours and who receives most of the money for the "service" they are providing?
Of course prostitution exists in all of the world's cities. Does making it so visible make for better rights for the women or does it, in the ture Protestant mercantile tradition of a trading city like Amsterdam, just make it easier for male pimps, middle men and traffickers to make their money without worrying so much about legal issues.