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Two young men wearing hoodies swagger up to one of the full-length windows in the most famous sex district in the world. Bathed in eerie red light are three women wearing only lace underwear. One plays nonchalantly with her phone, not bothering to look up at the men leering at her, reports Daily Mail. Another applies her lipstick. A third sways gently from side to side, staring out with a fixed smile.
The men are probably British. They come here in their droves, on holiday or for stag weekends, to gawp through the windows of the city's brothels. Some respond to the women beckoning them, no doubt emboldened by the fact this is De Wallen, where prostitution is not only tolerated but is perfectly legal, and where credit cards are accepted by the notorious 'window women'. Perhaps that is partly why the myth of the happy hooker has been allowed to flourish in these seedy streets.
But the reality, as The Mail on Sunday discovered, is far more grim, sordid and dangerous. Scores of human trafficking trials in the Dutch courts have exposed the horrific truth — that many of the smiling window girls have been brought from Eastern Europe by ruthless pimps who think nothing of handing out a beating, a knifing or rape.
One young woman who had been forced to Amsterdam revealed to The Mail on Sunday: Spurred on by horrific tales of women suffering coerced cosmetic surgery and forced abortions, a growing number of politicians and campaigners in Holland have turned against the sex trade.
The new outlook is summed up by a Dutch MP, who told the MoS that the brothels — seen by so many as just good dirty fun — are nothing more than "commercialised rape". Now a new law, likely to come into force next year, will make it an offence, punishable by up to four years in jail, for punters to have sex with a prostitute they know — or suspect — has been trafficked.