Thomas Cook, Britain’s longest running tour operator, is launching family tours to see prostitutes touting for trade in Amsterdam‘ s red light district. The night-time excursions, which include a briefing about the ‘system’ from a former prostitute, are open to children of any age, and the company boasts ‘under threes go free’.
Last week parents and charities working to protect women in the sex industry reacted with shock and disbelief when alerted to the tours by Escape.
‘It is sick to propose a “prostitution tour” not only for adults, but even more so for children,’ said Esohe Aghatise, the European representative of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), which campaigns against sexual exploitation of women.
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A press release issued by Thomas Cook to announce the new ‘Walking Tour Dark Amsterdam’ describes how the two-hour tour, leaving at 8pm, will take visitors ‘deep into the famous red light district, accompanied by a reliable and trustworthy guide, offering a fascinating insight into the oldest profession in the world!’
The brochure details what is included in the experience: ‘Begin with a drink at a prostitute information centre where a former prostitute will explain the system and answer any questions you may have. Then head for the Wallen (red light district) and see for yourself.’
Adult tickets for the tour cost ?12, though parents may be relieved to know children’s tickets only cost ?6. When asked what age range the child ticket covered, a spokeswoman said the prices apply to those from four to 12, and under threes go free.
CATW argues that taking children to see prostitutes is ‘highly irresponsible’ and risks traumatising them. The organisation estimates that 50-85 per cent of women in prostitution experience violence and debilitating injuries, and that more than 80 of those working in the Netherlands are of foreign origin, with most of them likely to have arrived there as victims of sex trafficking.
Dr Janice Raymond, co-director of CATW, said: ‘Thomas Cook Tours treats prostitution as harmless fun. Women are sold as commodities in the Dutch sex industry, and Thomas Cook charges tourists to view the marketable products and chuckle at the human merchandise.’
Thomas Cook said it has introduced the tour in its 2006 Thomas Cook Signature Cities and Short Breaks brochure in response to feedback from clients.
‘We have added this excursion to our programme so that our clients who do not feel comfortable or safe walking through the red-light district on their own can do so with an experienced guide, not only to escort them but to share his/her knowledge of this city’s colourful past and present,’ said a spokeswoman.
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