A woman who lives in Amsterdam's Red Light District says it's the 'most fun' area, but she wishes tourists would be more respectful to sex workers

·3 min read
Amsterdam's Red Light District
Amsterdam's Red Light District.Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • A resident of Amsterdam's Red Light District spoke to Insider about what it's like to live there.

  • Yung Carmiggelt said she wants visitors to be "respectful with the sex workers."

  • "If they want to pay for it and a woman can make money from it, then why not?" she said.

Amsterdam's Red Light District (RLD) has countless strip clubs, coffee shops, and around 300 windows belonging to sex workers, according to Amsterdam.Info, making it a prime location for tourists.

Yung Carmiggelt is one of around 4,000 residents of the RLD — and yet, she says many visitors are unaware that people live in the popular neighborhood.

"We don't want to become like Venice," she tells me during my visit to Amsterdam in October.

She sits across from me in the "We Live Here" information center, an exhibition she volunteers at that showcases the neighborhood as a residential area with the aim of promoting respectful behavior from visitors. According to the We Live Here website, tourists "modify their behavior if they are actively informed" of this.

We Live here exhibition
Yung Carmiggelt sits outside the "We Live Here" exhibition in the RLD.Mikhaila Friel/Insider

The exhibition was commissioned by the city council and has photos of some of the residents, alongside printed interviews where they explain why they enjoy living in the area.

For Carmiggelt, who has lived there for 23 years, the answer is simple: it's "the most fun area," she said. This was especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said prompted her to spend more time with her neighbors than she usually would.

Carmiggelt said she had been able to build good relationships with the local shopkeepers, the butcher, and the women who work in the windows, "who don't talk about their work" with the residents.

we live here exhibition
Free postcards from the "We Live Here" exhibition.Mikhaila Friel/Insider

The RLD hasn't always been a tourist area, according to Carmiggelt. She said that when she first arrived 23 years ago, the area was considered dangerous as it was known as a hot-spot for drug dealers and knife crime.

"Now there are lots of police cameras, and lots of police on the street," she said. "The streets are cleaned every day for the tourists, and there are a lot of nice trendy shops so it started to get popular and everyone wanted to have a business around here."

While Carmiggelt said she likes living in an area that has frequent visitors, there are two things she wishes tourists would understand.

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"Your garbage, please throw it in the trash, not on the street," she said. "And be respectful with the sex workers."

"It's the oldest profession, and men and women want to have sex. And if they want to pay for it and a woman can make money from it, then why not, if it's from free will?" Carmiggelt added later in the interview.

There are several rules in place to protect the privacy and safety of sex workers in the RLD. For example, visitors are prohibited from taking photographs of the women who work in the windows, and drinking on the streets is now allowed, according to RLD Amsterdam tours.

Walking tours in areas with windows brothels were banned by the city council in April 2020, The Independent reported.

Tourists had recently returned to the city at the time of our interview in October, with fully vaccinated travelers from the UK being able to visit the Netherlands without quarantining. At the time of writing, travelers from non-EU countries are currently banned from visiting EU countries, including the Netherlands, due to the spread of the new South African variant of COVID-19.

The Dutch government previously implemented a three-week lockdown from November 13 due to a rise of COVID-19 cases, The Guardian reported.

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