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Legal prostitution in The Netherlands


Since the legalization of brothels in The Netherlands, most cities demand prostitution to be licensed. Working unlicensed in those cities is a violation of the local laws, and is called 'illegal prostitution'. Not all unlicensed prostitution however is illegal prostitution. Some cities don't have a licensing system, thus making by default unlicensed prostitution legal as long as the person is 18 years or older.

In 2014 the Dutch government did research among Dutch cities how many licensed prostitution businesses there where. About 84% of the Dutch municipalities replied. According to them there where 833 licensed prostitution businesses.
Source: WODC research 2014, Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety

This means that since the legalization there are now 46% less licensed prostitution businesses in The Netherlands. Almost all forms of licensed prostitution have declined since 2000, most notably window prostitution and sexclubs and private houses.
Source: WODC research 2014, Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety

The largest group of licensed prostitution businesses are window prostitution businesses, almost a quarter of all the licensed prostitution businesses in The Netherlands. These are quickly followed by sexclubs and private houses.
Source: WODC research 2014, Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety

Licensed window prostitution businesses are brothels with a license. This prevents window prostitutes having to apply individual for a license. One licensed window brothels business may contain multiple working rooms for window prostitutes, often referred to as simply 'windows'. The number of windows since 2000 have heavily declined with more than a third.
Many big cities have closed large number of windows, often using the argument of human trafficking as a reason to close them down. The best known example of this is the Red Light District in Amsterdam, which has closed down nearly 100 windows. Some cities like for example Arnhem and Utrecht have closed down all prostitution windows.

The same thing applies for sexclubs and private houses, only the brothel needs a license, not each prostitute individually, and also sexclubs and private houses have been reduced heavily according to 84% of the municipalities.

With street prostitution the opposite applies. Each individual working street prostitute needs a license to work. Street prostitution however is only allowed in four designated areas for street prostitution. Four other big legal street prostitution areas have been closed down since the legalization, and most of the remaining legal street prostitution areas use an 'extinction policy' with the aim to reduce street prostitution to zero.

For escort a mix applies, some licensed escort businesses are independent working escorts, other licensed escort businesses are agencies whom escorts can work for legally. Licensed escort businesses are the only type of prostitution business which has grown slightly since 2000.

There are no prostitutes working from their own home with a license. There are also no webcam businesses with a license. Due to the closure of so many licensed prostitution businesses more and more prostitution is happening illegal. Most notably prostitutes working illegal from their own homes seem to have increased according to the estimates of municipalities in The Netherlands.


Source: WODC research 2014, Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety

Due to this, municipalities themselves estimate that about 75% of the prostitution businesses are licensed in The Netherlands. A small part is unlicensed, yet legal form of prostitution. The remaining is illegal prostitution, although it is unknown exactly how large illegal prostitution is, municipalities estimate this is about 16% of the prostitution business in The Netherlands.
Source: WODC research 2014, Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety
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