and what cannot in Antwerp
Some forms of prostitution are not prosecuted in Antwerp, others are.
Voluntary prostitution is not a criminal offense in Belgium. That means that customers and sex workers are not prosecuted. Anyone who makes possible and supports prostitution (such as drivers or operators of sex exploitation) is punishable.
In practice, there is a higher priority for prosecuting cases involving coercion, underage or undeclared work. The city expects a commitment from window prostitution owners to be aware of signals of coercion or human trafficking and to report this to the police.
Prostitution tolerance policy of the City of Antwerp
The city of Antwerp pursues an integral prostitution policy that is in line with the tolerance policy of the Antwerp public prosecutor’s office. Prostitution is not prohibited in Belgium. A sex worker or customer is not punishable. Landlords, advertisers, drivers or anyone who helps make prostitution possible are punishable.
Justice in Antwerp gives priority to prostitution files involving coercion, minors and human trafficking. That is why in practice prostitution will usually be tolerated with mutual consent or without coercion. The City of Antwerp has the authority to regulate and enforce a number of matters relating to prostitution. For example, the city will act when prostitution causes crime, nuisance (e.g. noise or insecurity) or health risks.
Window prostitution is only allowed in the tolerance zone in the Schipperskwartier in Antwerp. Window workers must be at least 18 years old and have appropriate residence or identity documents. Window prostitution outside the tolerance zone is prohibited.
Window prostitution is the most visible form of prostitution and has been regulated in the police codex since 1999. In addition, prostitution also occurs in other forms such as in bars, massage salons,…. These institutions fall under the sex exploitation regulations and are identified and maintained by means of administrative checks by the prostitution team of the police.
There are just over 300 windows in the Schipperskwartier. The Antwerp police check window prostitution by means of the digital application HookUp. On this website, property owners must enter the details of the sex workers who currently rent a window. The sex workers also confirm the rental via HookUp.
The police can thus see which person is working at what time, in which window. In this way, no windows can be subleased, whereby intermediaries rent a window to let illegal or underage sex workers work there. For example, the city and the police are fighting together against coercion and human trafficking in prostitution.
The city of Antwerp attaches great importance to privacy. The protection of the privacy of citizens and sex workers who are active on Antwerp territory is essential. The data collected in HookUp is only visible to the police prostitution team. If the city processes personal data, this is done in accordance with the applicable legal provisions.
Because the police have information about window sex workers, they can also better guarantee the safety of sex workers. For example, in the event of a disappearance, the police can find a victim more quickly.
The city expects a commitment from window prostitution operators to be aware of signs of coercion or human trafficking and to report this to the police. They should also always use HookUp when a sex worker wants to rent a window from them.
A window prostitution building has a maximum of one manager and with a minimum of 30 windows there can be two managers. Furthermore, operators of window prostitution buildings are also obliged to have a suitability statement. This statement guarantees the quality of the property and conditions such as the operator’s morality. For example, operators may not be convicted of facts such as the exploitation of prostitution, human trafficking and / or smuggling of people. Afterwards, all buildings are also annually checked for fire and hygiene regulations.
It is not allowed to incite prostitution and to operate a house of fornication or sex exploitation, but it is tolerated. This can be prosecuted by parquet. In practice, they give priority to files involving coercion, underage or undeclared work.
The prostitution team of the Antwerp police zone regularly checks in these bars or brothels to check on working conditions, safety and health. Sexual exploits also have to pay a tax.
Home reception and escort
Prostitution from apartments or houses is only tolerated if this does not cause a nuisance.
The prostitution team of the Antwerp police zone regularly carries out checks on sex workers who work from houses or apartments. They search for (suspicious) advertisements through searches on sex ad websites.
The police ask the sex worker some questions, they gauge the working conditions and well-being and provide information about assistance. By keeping the information in their database, they increase the safety of sex workers and it makes investigations in the event of disappearance easier.
Escort companies violate criminal law because they facilitate prostitution. They are not covered by the sex exploitation regulations and can therefore be prosecuted.
Unsentued and prohibited prostitution
Some forms of prostitution are punishable in Antwerp and are never allowed in Antwerp. The police will therefore prosecute these forms: street prostitution and forced prostitution (including prostitution of minors and human trafficking).
Street prostitution or soliciting is not tolerated in Antwerp. This means that in all cases of street prostitution GAS fines will be issued and/or a restraining order will be imposed.
Different organizations offer help to sex workers on the street.
Nomaad is an organization active in the Atheneum neighborhood. They target drug-using people on the street and provide basic care to street sex addicts.
Boysproject is an organization for male and transgender sex workers. Boysproject employees take to the streets once a week. They visit places where male and transgender sex workers may be present and offer them help.
Forced prostitution is always prohibited and is prosecuted and punished by the police. Do you suspect that someone is forced to work in prostitution, or are you in this situation yourself? Then report this to the prostitution team of the police or Payoke.
See a list of signs of abuse here and what to do if you think someone is being abused, or if you are experiencing abuse yourself.
It is never allowed to work in prostitution as a minor or to have a minor work in prostitution. Paying or giving material benefits in exchange for sex with a minor is always a criminal offense and a very serious crime. It is irrelevant whether the minor gives permission for this. Under no circumstances can and should not.
Human traffic and exploitation
Human trafficking victims are people who are forced to work in prostitution, for example (through violence, threats, etc.). They have to give (part of) their income to someone else.
Human trafficking and exploitation are of course prohibited, even outside prostitution. This is always prosecuted and punished. If you are a victim of human trafficking or you want to help a victim of human trafficking, always report this.
Reports about prostitution or sexual exploitation are best made to the prostitution team.
- If it is an underage person, you can contact the police in your area. They will then transfer the file to the youth police. If you prefer to first coordinate with a care organization, you can contact Payoke or Child Focus.
- If you suspect human trafficking is at stake, contact the prostitution team or Payoke.
Payoke offers shelter, legal and administrative support and psychological support to victims.
- In an emergency, call 101.
Extra vigility in hotels and windows prostitution
When minors work in prostitution – often as victims of loverboys – this usually happens in hotels. Hotels are an extra sensitive industry where victims can stay under the radar. It is therefore essential that hotel operators and hotel staff are vigilant about this and report abuse to the police’s prostitution team.
The city developed a sensitization folder for hotels. Hotels known to the police for past infringements were given an awareness-raising interview. If they do not make the necessary efforts and new facts take place, these hotels will be subject to sanctions and administrative closures.
Owners of window prostitution properties have a unique position for detecting forced prostitution. It is only allowed to rent out a window or room to a sex worker when there is a physical meeting between the owner or manager and the sex worker. It is therefore important that owners are extra vigilant for signs of coercion or human trafficking and report this to the police when there are indications. The city developed a sensitization folder for this.