Possibly one of the most notorious and controversial aspects of Amsterdam from an international spotlight – the Red Light District. Amsterdam’s Red Light District, De Wallen, has become an international tourist hotspot for bachelor parties, business men, travelers, etc. Located in one of the oldest parts of the city, surrounding the Old Church – Oude Kerk, legal prostitution takes place in the single rooms behind the red lit windows the scatter the streets. We visited the area during the day, expecting to take a tour with the Prostitution Information Center (PIC), but alas things did not work out as expected. In turn, we went Dutch and Phil and Mark managed to give us a mini tour of the art and statues in the area.
The oldest building and church in Amsterdam, Oude Kirk, resides in the center of the Red Light District. The building dates back to the early thirteenth century and was initially a Roman Catholic parish. During the sixteenth century, however, during the Reformation in Amsterdam the church was eventually taken over by the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church. Looking at the building from the outside it becomes apparent that statues had been previously removed from the arches on the building walls. Regardless of how one feels about the explicit dealing within the Red Light District, the area of Oudekerksplein alone makes the area worth checking out.
Standing tall outside the Old Church, we observe the statue of Belle. Belle is a bare breasted woman standing tall and confident (hands on her hips, legs separated) on steps in front of an open doorway. The plaque below Belle reads, in English, “RESPECT SEX WORKERS ALL OVER THE WORLD”. The monument was unveiled in 2007 and created by the PIC founder, Mariska Majoor. Majoor, a former sex worker, has made it her mission to fight for the rights and legal protections for sex workers. She continues her work by educating the public about prostitution, advocating for safe conditions for the workers, educating prostitutes on making their own decisions and future choices. The statue (the first of its kind) represents that the city is open to protecting prostitutes as individuals, making conditions safer for these workers, and Amsterdam’s willingness for tolerance.