By Imogen Foulkes for BBC News, Zurich, on August 26, 2013—
“New regulations for sex workers are coming into force in Zurich this week, designed to provide some safety to women who work in the sex trade, and to bring a measure of peace to the city centre, the city authorities say.
Although prostitution is legal in Switzerland, critics say the law actually offers little protection to the women themselves.
For several years, some areas right in the heart of the town, most notably Sihlquai – a street running away from the main station – have been home to a very lively sex trade.
Local residents have long been unhappy with the situation, and social workers say the scene is highly dangerous for the women concerned.
“They get into cars with men they don’t know, and they don’t know where they will be taken,” explains Ursula Kocher, who runs an advice centre for sex workers. “They get driven out of the city, into a forest, away from anywhere.”
There have been a number of cases of violence, and of women being robbed.
A recent study carried out in Zurich showed that most of the prostitutes working on the streets are Roma (Gypsy) women from central and eastern Europe, and many of them have children to support.
Gated sex trade
Now the city has come up with a solution it believes will protect them: soliciting on the streets will be forbidden, and instead prostitutes and their clients will be expected to use a custom-built compound on an industrial site in the Zurich suburbs.
The facility opens this week; inside the gates, which are manned by security guards, there is a “strip” which men can drive down, and select the woman of their choice.
There are trees, coloured lights, and benches to sit on, all designed to create an atmosphere which Michael Herzig of the Zurich social services says should not be too “sad”.
Just one man per car, no bikes or motorcycles, no filming, and of course no littering”
But since all business must take place inside the compound, there are drive-in “sex boxes”, and here the measures taken to protect the women are very apparent.
On the driver’s side, the boxes are very narrow, making it difficult for him to get out of the car. On the passenger side, there is plenty of space, an alarm button and an emergency exit.
There are also safe-sex reminders: “There is a big HIV prevention advertisement right in front of the car, so the driver has to look at a condom, to remind him he should wear one,” the city authorities say.
And there are very strict rules: “Just one man per car, no bikes or motorcycles, no filming, and of course no littering.””
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