It’s unclear why it is exactly that red lights have become an international symbol of prostitution.
Some believe that the practice derives from the lamps carried by railway workers being left outside a brothel whilst others believe the term comes from the use of red lights by prostitutes to illuminate their chambers.
As a result of the historic tolerance and liberal mindedness towards the sex industry by the Dutch in general, Amsterdam has thrived as a tourist destination for people looking to sample what the city has to offer.Today, prostitution is fully legal but all brothels and independent prostitutes must hold a state license to operate with the minimum legal age for prostitutes now being 21.The authorities continue to provide protection for its sex workers in the form of 24-hour surveillance on the city streets and offering full police assistance.As the city has grown, the original site continued to be referred to as The Wall and, because of the links with prostitution, the phrase has become a euphemism when paying for sex.
Sprawling out from the original location of the docks, De Wallen is a network of small passageways and alleys connecting the two main streets of Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal which run alongside the canals.
Whatever its origin, Amsterdam embraces the tradition of the red light and De Wallen area is characterised by the window brothels which still use red lights to signify their trade (as if a half-naked prostitute leaning up against the window isn’t sign enough! Blue lights are used to signify shemales and transsexuals.