Red Light District
The start of the 18th century again saw a wave of morality and intolerance, protesting against sin and sexuality. Society became more prudish, and stringent action was taken against whoredom. This didn’t last long however since the second half of the century welcomed a new professional approach towards prostitution. Large, wonderfully furnished brothels opened up, to be recognized by the red colored lanterns hanging by the doors.
The occupation of the Netherlands by the French, from 1795 onwards, meant a new phase for the Red Light District altogether. Although predominantly aimed at fighting sexually transmitted diseases, Napoleon introduced some kind of legalized prostitution. Prostitutes had to report to the police twice a week for a medical check-up. The healthy ones received a red card and could continue doing their job. In the case of any disease, they were given a white card, stating the name of the illness, and provided with free treatment. In the meantime though, while getting clean again, working was prohibited.
This policy continued even after the French left in 1813. By that time the number of prostitutes in Amsterdam had increased dramatically. In a letter to the Dutch King Willem I, dating 1816, there was talk of more than 3,000 women walking the streets of De Wallen.