7 June 2022

A video of the Red Light district goes viral. Frits Rouvoet: “It’s not about being for or against prostitution anymore, this is inhuman.”

A video that Frits Rouvoet from the Bright Fame foundation shared on Twitter on Friday, has gone viral. It has been watched over 178.000 times and shared 122 times, among others by politicians and the well-known journalist Sander Schimmelpennick. In the video, you can see how the Red Light district has become some sort of moving band of tourists. There are even one-way streets enforced. Frits: “In the 17 years that I’ve been walking around here, I have never seen it this crowded. Large groups that are making videos screaming. The women behind the windows experience defeat. ‘I don’t feel human anymore, but more like an attraction,’ one told me. It is absurd that the municipality of Amsterdam, the government, is allowing this.”
What do you see in the video? Find the video here.

“I was at the Red Light district, last week, like I’m there almost every night to reach out to the women. I’ve been coming here for 17 years, but I’ve never experienced anything like this, this crowdedness. It might because of the Ascension Day , or because Corona is over, but you see flocks of people, masses. That’s why people are walking in circles. People who live there, have to take a different route, because all side streets are blocked.”

How does this affect you?
“Look, I am used to a lot. But this touches me deeply. It was one moving band of tourists. Sometimes, the atmosphere at the Red Light can be hectic, sometimes aggressive even. But now you can feel the defeat, especially with the women. You know, in our society, we keep talking about respect, respect. We have to respect everyone. Someone’s sexual orientation, opinion, gender. But this is the most respectless thing I’ve ever seen. For example, there was a moment when a guy left a room. The moment he stepped out the door, a group of friends was waiting for him and filming the whole thing. They started screaming, and other men surrounding them joined in, ever though they weren’t part of the group. The girl just stood there defeated, not knowing what to do. She felt ridiculed. It’s not about being for or against prostitution anymore. This is inhuman. That fact that the municipality of Amsterdam, the government, is allowing this, is absurd.

Do you notice a difference between the Red Light in the past and now?
Frits: “When we started our service for people in prostitution 17 years ago, there was a lot wrong at the Red Light. But now it seems like it has become more like an attraction. It seems tougher, everyone for themselves. You can also earn less money. People purely come there for entertainment, to watch. It has become some sort of amusement park. We joke about it. This is Amsterdam, everything is possible, everything is allowed. But everyone is looking at her body, not at her. Porn has made things worse, too. What you see on the internet, you can buy at the Red Light. Sometimes, these are disgusting requests, like: ‘can you pretend to be my neighbour of 8?’”

How do the women behind the windows respond to this situation?
Frits: “Everyone expresses it differently, but they all struggle with it. They feel uncomfortable. Lonely. Unsafe. One woman said: ‘I don’t feel human anymore, but more like an attraction.’ A lot of woman distance themselves from their bodies. ‘It’s very simple’, one explained to me, ‘my body is there, but in my mind I’m doing my groceries. Looking for something nice to buy.’ That’s a trauma reaction. A lot of women have PTSS.”

You are there for Bright Fame, an organisation that helps women in prostitution. How do you do that?
Frits: “We want to look after other people. Without judgement. To stand next to them, like family. This afternoon, a girl visited us. Shortly after both her parents died, she ended up in prostitution.

You know, these days we keep talking about separating work and private. And this can be a good thing, so you have time for your family, for example. But when you experience such intense things like these women, with whom do you talk about this? With someone who really looks after you, someone who is more than just a social worker. We want to stand next to the people in prostitution. And, apart from the fact that professionalism and rules can be a good thing, it sometimes can get in the way, too. I’ve never read in the Bible that Jesus helped someone and afterwards keeps a professional distance from that person. At Bright Fame we build friendships and from there, we help the women.”

So what did you say to that girl?
“I told her she can always call me. I said: I know you miss your parents and you’re a mother now yourself. Your circumstances aren’t great, but you’re not your circumstances. You are loved and God has a plan with your life. Call me sometime. I might not be your dad, but I have two daughters your age.”

A lot of women see you and your wife Jacqueline as their parents, right?
“One woman even named her daughter after Jacqueline! She said: ‘You’re the parents I never had.’ Now, we’re the grandparents of that baby girl.’



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