Sex Work, Stigma and Violence in the Netherlands

Sex Work


A report on the main findings of study in the Netherlands examining violence against sex workers

Research shows that sex workers worldwide experience stigma and violence. To find out to what extent sex workers in the Netherlands experience violence, PROUD, the Dutch union for and by sex workers, and our member organisation Aidsfonds – Soa Aids Nederland researched this. A total of 308 sex workers participated through questionnaires, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. These participating sex workers work across the country at various workplaces. Their gender, age, work experience and background are diverse. The respondents engage in this work either to earn money, because they enjoy it and/or because it offers flexibility. Most respondents said they were satisfied with their job for more than half the time or always. Here are some highlights from the report:

Legislation and policy

Sex work legislation and policies in the Netherlands are not aimed at protecting sex workers but rather have detrimental effects on their safety. For instance, current laws and regulations considerably raise the threshold for reporting crimes committed against them. The focus of current policies on countering human trafficking and non-licensed prostitution plays a role, too, as does the fact that the number of licensed workplaces is steadily decreasing. For sex workers who want to work independently, possibilities to work in licensed settings are very limited. Therefore, many sex workers operate outside the licensed sector which restricts their access to (labor) laws. This in turn increases the risk of experiencing violence and being exploited.


This research has shown that many sex workers in the Netherlands experience violence. Follow-up research is needed to investigate in more detail the risk factors, ways to reduce violence as well as the severity and intensity of different forms of violence, e.g. social-emotional violence.


Based on this research we make the following recommendations for reducing violence against sex workers in the Netherlands:

  • Make sex workers the center of prostitution policies and address violence against sex workers.
  • Lower the threshold for filing police reports.
  • Decriminalize sex work so that all sex workers have once again access to (labor) laws, thereby reducing the risk of violence.

Access the full report here.

General Information: