The Netherlands launched a new online reporting tool to protect sex workers from dangerous clients Wednesday, in a move supported by the country’s justice ministry to improve safety in the industry.
“Ugly Mugs NL” is an online platform founded by the Dutch foundation to fight sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS (SOA AIDS) and the Dutch Union of Sex Workers.
“On this platform, sex workers can warn each other about aggressive and dangerous clients,” the Ugly Mugs NL website said.
“As a sex worker, you can use the platform to check new clients. You can also receive alerts when a dangerous customer is active in your area,” it said.
The website can also help sex workers to report abuse to the police.
Research by SOA AIDS and PROUD, the largest organisation representing sex workers, showed that 97 percent of all sex workers in the Netherlands experienced violence, the website said.
The 49-page report, released in 2018, said some 78 percent were exposed to sexual violence, 60 percent to physical violence and 58 percent to financial violence — when clients stole their money or refused to pay for services rendered.
“The largest category of perpetrators of violence against sex workers are clients. This applies to all forms of violence,” said study in which more than 300 sex workers took part — and which was funded by the Dutch Justice Ministry.
The Netherlands legalised prostitution in 2000 and sex workers have to register with the local chamber of commerce and pay income tax.
Amsterdam’s red-light district, called “De Wallen” in Dutch, is a major tourist draw.
But rising crime and the sheer number of visitors have contributed to huge problems in the area, once called a “square kilometre of misery” by police.
Mayor Femke Halsema previously listed “disruptive behaviour and a disrespectful attitude to the sex workers in the windows” as key problems, along with a “major increase in unlicensed, underground prostitution.”
Local authorities have even mooted plans to move the red-light district — but the suggestion has been met with mixed reaction.
The sector has also been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, forcing it to close down for months during height of the pandemic.
The Dutch platform is based on Britain’s National Ugly Mugs platform, which was launched in 2012.