Amsterdam raises legal age for prostitution to 21

A German prostitute, called Eve, waits for clients behind her window in the red light district of Amsterdam. The city announced on February 26, 2013 that it will raise the legal age for prostitutes from 18 to 21.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The city of Amsterdam said Tuesday it will raise the legal age of prostitutes from 18 to 21 and announced plans to close brothels during the early morning hours in a bid to protect sex workers.

"The minimum age for a prostitute is raised from 18 to 21 years," the Dutch capital city announced in a statement, and said the new rules are meant to fight industry abuses and "strengthen prostitutes' position."

The city also wants brothels in Amsterdam's landmark red-light district to close between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays and from 5 a.m. on weekends.

"At the moment, there isn't much surveillance and social controls [sic] during these hours," it said, noting that as a result "it is more dangerous to work and prostitutes have to deal with drunk and aggressive clients during these hours."

GlobalPost senior correspondent, Paul Ames, said that prostitution has long been tolerated in the Dutch capital and was legalized in 2000 with the aim of protecting the women by legitimizing and regulating their employment status.

However the authorities have been worried that the red light district is attracting more and more crime and that the women, many of whom are foreign, are being exploited by pimps and trafficking gangs.

Efforts have been made to reduce the size of the red light district and cut down the number of women working in the city's famed red-lighted windows, Ames said from Brussels.

The latest moves reflect fears that younger women are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and that the all night opening hours make the district impossible to police.

With an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 prostitutes, the city's red-light district attracts sex tourists from around the world to a country long considered one of the world's most liberal.

Observers have pointed to a move in recent years towards conservatism, including efforts to curtail legal soft drug use and prostitution.

Paul Ames contributed to this report from Brussels.