After 50 years as prostitutes, Dutch twin sisters retire

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First aired on As It Happens (18/03/13)

After almost 50 years as prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district, Dutch twin sisters Louise and Martine Fokkens are calling it quits. The Fokkens sisters are now 70, and they've met with hundreds of thousands of clients over the years. They've written about their experiences in a new book called The Ladies of Amsterdam. They were also the subjects of a documentary film called Meet the Fokkens, which was released last year.

In a recent interview with As It Happens, they spoke about their decision to retire, and how things have changed in the red light district. Though they are not fluent in English, both sisters were pleased to respond to questions from host Carol Off.

When asked what she planned to do with her free time, Martine said she enjoys gardening, and is also working on a new book.

Louise said that in recent years she had cut back on the amount of work she'd been doing, and eventually stopped altogether because of being "a little tired" and suffering from arthritis.

Martine first started work as a prostitute at the age of 21, Louise at the age of 20. Louise began as a streetwalker, but found it dangerous and instead went to work in red light district. The sisters said they found it fun, and "American boys, the Canadian boys, the German boys, every country came there, and we had fun."

The sisters say that it's very different nowadays, however. With the advent of the European Union, girls came from all over to work there, and though prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, that also brought problems, according to Louise, because the government charge the women "a lot of money" for licences.

Both women were happy to be retired, but there were aspects of their profession they said they'd miss. Louise commented that it makes her feel younger to have the attention of men, and Martine enjoyed being her own boss.

The high-spirited sisters closed the interview with a rousing rendition of Paul Anka's song Lonely Boy, and much laughter

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