By Ayesha Borker
Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Netherlands is known for its liberal policies. Be it open selling of drugs or legalization of prostitution. You can simply walk into a coffee shop there and buy a few drugs. Or window prostitution? Not an alien concept.
What makes the Dutch tick like this? How did they come to an establishment of these policies and what is the real truth behind them?
There is a common notion amongst people that drug selling is legal in Netherlands. However, this statement is not entirely true. The Dutch follow a policy called the gedogen. The word gedogen comes closest to the meaning ‘tolerance’. This does not mean that the Dutch government is alright with certain offences. Infact, it means that the Dutch are not in favour of enforcing certain laws. They are ready to tolerate certain offences provided a certain regulation is attached to them.
For starters, the Dutch make distinction between two kinds of drugs- hard and soft. The hard drugs include cocaine, heroin or magic mushrooms and these are completely forbidden. On the other hand soft drugs include hash marijuana or weed made from cannabis. These drugs are illegal too. However, the government does not immediately demand prosecution of people in possession of these drugs. If a person has not more than five grams of cannabis, for personal use only or have a maximum of five ‘Cannabis sativa’ plants at home then he is completely within his limits.
One of the most logical reasons for not completely banning drugs is that prohibition would encourage smuggling and increase criminal activities. If drug use is regulated by the government such activities can be controlled efficiently. Another reason is that the Dutch believe matters of health are private to every individual. They are of the opinion that use of drugs comes under the same bracket as use of tobacco or for that matter even alcohol.
The latter two bring about the same amount of harm to health and are no different from soft drugs. Inspite of this, they continue to remain legal throughout the world.
As preventive measures the Dutch continue to spread the word against the use of drugs to their people and follow a two-fold approach in controlling drug abuse.
This open drug model has received a lot of flak from other apprehensive nations and remains controversial. However, Netherlands has been lauded for the introduction of heroin assisted treatment for improvement of health situations of opiate dependent patients.
On the other hand, prostitution was legalized in Netherlands only in 2000. This bold move was taken to protect women by giving them work permits and equal rights as other citizen of the nations. A commendable step indeed but it has led to increase in human trafficking and rise of criminal activities. It has also led to illegal migration of victims to work in the red light areas. The Dutch government is looking for steps to counter these while standing by with their policy.
While we live in a world where nations are taking a liberal stands, we wonder what policies does our country choose to follow. Battling with our own internal issues of a conservative societal paradigm, drug legalization seems like a far-fetched reality. However, not many would know a quirky fact that prostitution is legal in India by law. Running trade centres and brothels isn’t!
Ayesha has completed her engineering and is currently working.She has a very logical bent of mind and keeps an interest in a variety of topics. She has a passion for writing poems and maintains a blog too(/http://wondread.blogspot.