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  • Writer's pictureJacob Dutkiewicz

Dutch Privacy Watchdog Warns About the Consequences of Forced Registration of Sex Workers

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

The Municipal Sex Work Supervision Act proposed by the Dutch cabinet intends to introduce register for sex workers, but the Dutch Data Protection Authority warns that the proposed bill will only increase the risks associated with sex work.

Nieuwstad, Groningen’s ‘Red Light District’ © The Groninger 2023

Intended to give municipalities a better overview of sex work activity, the bill, introduced earlier this year by the Dutch Cabinet, gives the municipality the authority to force sex workers to register in an online database. Without registering, the sex workers would be unable to work within the protection of the law.

Within the Netherlands, sex work and prostitution are legal, but regulated. This move by the Dutch government is an attempt to provide a stricter legal framework for the practice of sex work. By introducing a digital database, the current cabinet hopes to combat human trafficking more effectively.

Independent observers, however, believe that rather than increasing the safety of sex workers, the bill will have an opposite effect.

Earlier today, the Dutch Data Protection Authority, the DPA, released a statement in connection with the Municipal Sex Work Supervision Act (Wet Gemeentelijk Toezicht Seksbedrijven) where it described the severe adverse effects the bill would have on the safety of sex workers in the Netherlands.

The Dutch branch of Amnesty International agrees with the DPA’s assessment.

Chantal Kuipers, a spokesperson for the organization, believes that because of the stigma associated with sex work, a lot of workers will not register in the database out of fear of a privacy breach.

“This will most likely lead to sex workers switching to the unregulated part of the industry,” Kuipers explains. “Sex workers will thus be out of sight of the police and social services to a greater extent than they already are. It will make them more vulnerable to violence, exploitation and other human rights violations.”

"Surely it cannot be that sex workers may soon be worse off, especially because of government policy?" says DPA vice-chairman in the statement released on the subject. "If sex workers feel forced to enter the unregulated industry due to the registration of their data, they can end up in unsafe situations, even human trafficking. The bill therefore threatens to defeat its purpose."

Alternative solutions

Amnesty International also thinks that the bill does not have the best interests of the workers in mind.

“Sex workers will not report instances of abuse to the police if they work in fear of legal consequences for themselves,” says Kuipers.

Amnesty offers an alternative approach to ensuring the safety of Dutch workers.

“We think that the way forward is complete decriminalization. Listen to the voices of sex workers and include them in the development of these regulations.”

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