No car,no sex. Thats the rule for a novel experiment Zurich is launching Monday to make prostitution less of a public nuisance and safer for women.
Switzerland has long been famous for its mountaineering,chocolate and precision watches,but a lesser known aspect is its legal prostitution since 1942,for which its largest city is one of the main centres in Europe.
Fashionably teak-coloured open wooden garages,popularly called sex boxes by the Swiss media,will be open for business for drive-in customers. The several dozen sex workers who are expected to make it their new hub will stand along a short road in a small,circular park for clients to choose from and negotiate with.
The publicly-funded facilities open all night and located away from the city centre has bathrooms,lockers,small cafe tables and a laundry and shower. Men wont have to worry about video surveillance cameras,but the sex workers who will need a permit and pay a small tax will be provided with a panic button and on-site social workers trained to look after them.
As far as Daniel Hartmann,a Zurich lawyer,is concerned,its a win-win situation. Safety for the prostitutes. At least its a certain kind of a shelter for them. They can do their business,and I respect them, he said.
Voters in Zurich approved spending up to 2.4 million Swiss francs ($2.6 million) on the project last year as a way of relocating the sex traffic away from a busy downtown area where it had become a public nuisance and safety concern due to lack of sanitation,aggressive men,and associated drugs and violence.
The drive-in garages,or sheds,have no doors and come equipped with an emergency call button on the passenger side of the structure that sets off a flashing light and a loud alarm inside an adjacent office building where the city will post social workers specially trained to provide a measure of security. Zurich police say they will beef up patrols around the perimeter to protect the sex workers when they leave and enter.
Modelled after the drive-in brothels used in several cities in Germany and the Netherlands,which have had mixed success improving safety,the sex boxes will be open daily from 7 pm to 5 am.
Zurich requires that street sex workers register with city and health authorities,and it offers health checks. Sex workers must be at least 18 years old,in keeping with a Council of Europe convention on protecting children from exploitation and abuse. The income is taxed and subject to social insurance like any other economic activity.