Media reports indicate that the Eindhoven city council has offered to award "credits" to prostitutes in return for good behavior.
Under the new scheme, the sex workers in the Dutch city of Eindhoven would receive so-called "street miles" that they can use to buy free designer clothes or furniture, if they agree to change their career for a safer lifestyle.
Advertisement"We needed to come up with incentives that these women might latch on to," the Independent quoted Veronique Beurskens of Eindhoven council, who is leading a drive to rid the city of street prostitution, as saying.
Eindhoven's designated sex work zone is scheduled to close by 2011. While Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are slowly clamping down their red light areas, Eindhoven is adopting a unique approach by offering material incentives to tempt women into thinking about an economic alternative to prostitution.
However, a large number of city's sex workers are heroin addicts, and thus the council has decided to fund assertiveness classes to help sex workers to strengthen ties with their pimps, as well as workshops, advice and courses on how to find new jobs.
"For every step they take to get out of their trade, they'll get vouchers that they can cash in to go shopping. They will be assigned a coach, whose first job will be to help them muster enough courage to stand up for themselves and break free from the trade," said Beurskens.
Also, the council is experimenting with many more outlandish ideas put forward by art students from the Eindhoven Design College.
Some of the sex workers, dubbed "dames" locally, have already been given a makeover involving designer clothes to boost their self-confidence.
Also in the pipeline is a scheme that involves the creation of a fashion label conceived by the prostitutes themselves.
"This has worked well in Amsterdam, where the women have launched their own label and can make money from it. We have plenty of designers at the college who could show them how to get started and teach them about clothes-making," said Beurskens.
However, the Dutch media has ridiculed the initiative, with some commentators even calling it the "whore miles" scheme.
The plan has not been welcomed with open arms among some prostitutes.
"This is fine if they actually want to move on to something else but some might not want to. At the end of the day, this is a step towards making street prostitution illegal, and what will happen to the women then?" said Metje Blaak from Red Thread, the Dutch Prostitutes' Union.
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