La Strada Documentation Center

Final report of the International Comparative Study of Prostitution Policy: Austria and The Netherlands

Document number
Final report of the International Comparative Study of Prostitution Policy: Austria and The Netherlands
Platfrom 31
View/save PDF version of this document
Document type(s)
human rights, prostitution, Netherlands, Austria
In the international debate on the regulation of prostitution, Dutch prostitution policy has come to be regarded as a “symbol of political pragmatism and social tolerance”. (Bernstein, 2007, 159) Although, given its origins in a policy of regulated tolerance and a long process of consultation among stakeholders, this reputation is not wholly undeserved, we have seen – and will see more evidence of this later – that in its implementation the Dutch law quickly took on regulatory and even repressive features. This had a lot do with the increasing emphasis, both in the national debate as in the design and implementation of national and local regulation, on issues of migration and trafficking. We see a similar development in Austria. While Austrian legislation has drawn much less international attention than the Dutch, in its practical emphasis on harm reduction and regulating the health and social position of the sex worker, it displays broad similarities with the Dutch approach. However, similar to the Netherlands, immigration and trafficking laws have strongly shaped the realization of prostitution policy. And in both countries rules aimed at migrant sex workers have been revoked overnight, without the due process that is usually allowed regulatory revision in other domains. In chapter 5 we will see that this impetus at least in part originated at the local level. But before we turn to local regulation, we first need to discuss another feature of prostitution policy, its deeply contested, moral nature. In the next chapter we will argue that prostitution policy is an instance of what policy scholars call morality politics (Mooney, 1999; 2001). We will also see that the media play a large, and usually not very constructive role, in this. The observation that prostitution policy is morality politics has various effects on the design and implementation of prostitution policy. Part of the emphasis
on crime and trafficking stems from this, but in general, the moral nature of prostitution policy makes it difficult to design and sustain a policy that, as is the goal of the Dutch 2000 law, takes the rights of sex workers and the quality of life in cities as its major objectives.