De Wallen or De Walletjes is the largest, and best-known, Red-Light District in Amsterdam and a major tourist attraction.
It is located in the heart of the oldest part of the city (Amsterdam-Centrum), covering several blocks south of the church Oude Kerk and crossed by several canals.
De Wallen consists of a network of alleys containing approximately three hundred tiny one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana. It's important to mention that all the coffeshops in the De Wallen area will have to close their doors between 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2015.
De Wallen, together with the prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade, form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam. The total area is approximately 6500 square metres. Prostitution takes place within this area in the following streets: Barndesteeg, Bethlehemsteeg, Bloedstraat, Dollebegijnensteeg, Enge Kerksteeg, Goldbergersteeg, Gordijnensteeg, Molensteeg, Monnikenstraat, Oudekerksplein, Oudekennissteeg, Oudezijds Achterburgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Sint Annendwarsstraat, Sint Annenstraat, Stoofsteeg and Trompettersteeg. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, with the exception of street prostitution, but work permits are not issued for prostitution; therefore legally working in the trade is limited mostly to EU citizens. While health and social services are readily available, sex workers are not required to undergo regular health checks.
The neighbourhood has the world's first monument to sex workers installed in the red light district. The bronze statue was unveiled on the Oudekerksplein in front of the Oude Kerk at the open day in March 2007 and shows a woman standing in a doorway. Netherlands is listed by the UNODC as a primary country of destination for victims of human trafficking, and city authorities are very worried about Amsterdam 's current situation. More than 75% of Amsterdam's prostitutes are from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, according to a former prostitute who produced a report about the sex trade. Two anonymous vice officers of the Beurstraat police station who have worked in this area revealed in October 2005 that there are two main groups of human traffickers on de Wallen, the "loverboys" and a group known as "the Turks". The group of loverboys consist mostly of young males who use romantic techniques to persuade young women to work for them as prostitutes. The Turkish group concentrates mainly on the trafficking in Eastern European prostitutes. A former Amsterdam prostitute who is now a city councillor said: "There are people who are really proud of the red light district as a tourist attraction. It's supposed to be such a wonderful, cheery place that shows just what a free city we are. But I think it's a cesspit. There's a lot of serious criminality. There's a lot of exploitation of women, and a lot of social distress. That's nothing to be proud of."