IF YOU haven't been to Amsterdam's notorious "Red Light" district there is a good chance you've heard of it.
It's laid back, anything goes reputation attracts millions of visitors every year – many of them boozed-up Brits looking for an x-rated adventure.
The name comes from the neon lights which highlight the 300 windows where working girls ply their centuries old trade.
The district's narrow streets are filled with sex shops, peep shows, brothels, an elaborate condom shop, a sex museum and, of course, prostitutes in red-lit windows.
The vice industry has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance in The Dam – with prostitutes regularly earning more than £350 a day.
On the face of it, sex-workers in the Dutch capital seem to be treated better than their counterparts anywhere else in the world.
They have their own union, police protection, frequent monitoring and testing and professional standards.
But now a new investigation has revealed the city's "Happy Hooker" reputation is nothing more than a seedy front.
The Mail on Sunday today reports the truth is far more sordid.
And the rising numbers of human trafficking trials in the Dutch courts add weight to their claims.
Many of the smiling girls have been ferried in from Eastern Europe by ruthless and brutal pimps who hand out beatings to those who don't follow their rules.
One young woman told the paper: "We are being sold just like something in a shop."
She revealed how she was transformed from a promising teen student into a broken woman -all by the age of 22.
After being lured to Europe she was effectively taken prisoner and then "sold on" for work in an Amsterdam brothel.
"The man who brought me to England and then to Holland used me like a piece of meat," she said.
"When I saw the brothels with all the girls in the windows, I cried. I cried very hard because they looked horrible, and I knew that was what was coming to me."
After being told she owed her brutish new boss £27,000 transport fees she had to work non stop to keep him off her back.
In exchange for handing over all her earnings she was given just £9 a day to buy food and supplies. To make things worse, she was also regularly raped by her boss.
Now a new law is being introduced to make it an offence, punishable by up to four years in jail, for punters to have sex with a prostitute they know – or suspect – has been trafficked.
However, the move has come too late for many of those girls whose lives have already been destroyed.
Many are now hooked on hardcore drugs – the only way they can get through the misery of their existence.
However, despite the horror stories those visiting the red light district do not seem to care if the vice girls have been trafficked.
One British punter said: "I assumed one woman was trafficked because of the way it was set up with a big guy standing outside."
And according to the working girls who ply their trade in the city, they all fear a British caller.
One revealed: "The English are the worst. They treat me like dirt. One even urinated all over me and laughed while he was doing it.
"They are always drunk. They hurt me."
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Dutch MP Gert-Jan Segers, leader of the Christian Union party in the coalition government, told the Mail on Sunday: "We legalised prostitution in 2000. The idea was it was giving women their freedom and to get rid of the criminality. But we took it away from being linked to freedom and we linked it to human trafficking.
"The red light district is a dark place. It’s chilling, it’s humiliating – it makes me cry.
"For a long time we just accepted it – there are tour guides telling naughty and funny stories about the place. But the reality is that it’s just commercialised rape."
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