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It was and she was living in Cologne. Two years earlier prostitution had been legalised across Germany, and the city of Cologne quickly distinguished itself: it made sex work a major part of its urban policy. For workers like Schulze, this created a unique set of conditions. The city reasoned that if sex work was going to happen, it should be in a safe and clean space. It was decided that sex work would be allowed only in certain parts of the city — and in order to encourage both sex workers and their customers to abide by this rule, in one of the permitted areas the city built a facility specifically for sex.
Located on the edge of town, the result is a kind of sex drive-through. Customers drive down a one-way street, into a roughly two-acre open air-space where sex workers can offer their services. Once hired, the sex worker accompanies the customer into a semi-private parking stall. Social workers are present on site and offer a space to rest, stay warm and access services. Schulze says she believes the facility works well.
The attitude that if sex work is inevitable it should be safe has spread across the city. The idea is slowly spreading. For years he has struggled to balance the rights of street-based sex workers with the desires of the surrounding community. Residents frequently complain about people having sex in parks, about used condoms littered on sidewalks, and about sex workers defecating in bushes. One proposed solution, to be debated in parliament in the autumn, is to build stalls where sex workers and their customers can meet.
But Von Dassel worries that these will only lead to more activity in public spaces. He wants the city to consider broader issues surrounding sex work, such as human trafficking, drug abuse and violence. Amsterdam has another problem: in addition to overcrowding, crime and public nuisance, window-based sex workers are increasingly subjected to leering crowds with smartphone cameras.
The city recently held two public meetings to hear local concerns. The scenarios will be debated by the city council with public input from residents, sex workers and business owners, and a council vote on the preferred option later this year. Some sex workers remain skeptical that these new efforts to improve public infrastructure is properly considering their needs. Often the ends of these proposals are to limit the space sex workers take in the city.