ANTWERP | Darklands 2024 going into ‘The Void’ under new, stricter city rules

Darklands announced its theme for 2024: ‘The Void‘. The City of Antwerp announced new, stricter rules for businesses and events offering a sexual context. 

From June 1, 2023, the City of Antwerp will expand its existing regulations for sexual business to escort agencies and erotic pop-up events. Darklands is such a pop-up event.

“With this change to the police regulations, the city is committed to safe and healthy working conditions for all sex workers in the various branches.”

The expansion is still subject to approval by the city council.

In 2019, the City of Antwerp approved the police regulations on sex exploitation (politiereglement op de seksuitbatingen), in which a uniform regulatory framework was introduced for sex exploitation. 

In these regulations, the city stipulates that such establishments must comply with the rules on urban development, fire safety, hygiene and morality. By introducing these rules, the city has a better overview of the industry and the working conditions of sex workers.

By extending the existing regulations in a uniform manner to escort agencies and erotic pop-up events, the city is also ensuring safer and healthier working conditions here. 

Sex workers can enjoy the same protection and rogue operators will no longer be able to use loopholes to circumvent certain regulations.

The changes will take effect on June 1, 2023, so that operators have time to make the necessary adjustments.

Escort Agencies

There has been a clear shift in sex exploitation in Antwerp in recent years. Window prostitution and other forms of visible prostitution are decreasing in popularity, while escort agencies are becoming an increasingly important part of the industry.

The city therefore decided, and because of the decriminalization of sex work since June 2022, to also include escort agencies, which were not previously covered by the regulations, in the police regulations on sex exploitations and to subject them to conditions. 

This concerns all such agencies that offer sexual services on the territory of Antwerp. Sex workers who work as escorts can end up in unsafe situations because they do not work in fixed locations.

Panic buttons

The amended regulations now also stipulate that, for this reason, there must be mobile panic buttons for escorts, among other things, to increase safety. Such a panic button is then connected to the person in charge of that office or a private security firm. 

Furthermore, the escort agency will be penalized if it offers unsafe sex via, for example, the price list. The city can also subject those responsible to a morality investigation.

​The rule is also that a person responsible for each escort agency must be approachable, both for the sex worker himself and for the police. In the event of unsafe situations, the person responsible must be able to take the necessary actions.

Erotic pop-up events

Erotic pop-up events will also have to comply with these new regulations in the future. After all, such events in practice cause the same risks as erotic bars where sexual acts take place. 

Organizers must meet certain hygiene conditions, such as providing showers and information about safe sex, using washable materials, and so on.

Influence on Darklands

Darklands already invests time, money and effort on information, hygiene, health and being a safe space. Showers would be a new feature. 

Darklands 2023-2024

Antwerp Pride 2023 & Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2023

Queer Antwerp

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