It seems that Switzerland is forward-thinking when it comes to prostitution.
Prostitutes in one area of Zurich will now be able to solicit clients in a safe and more discreet way, thanks to the publicly funded “sex boxes”, paid for by taxpayers after a democratic public vote last year.
Sex boxes are designed to offer more safety for sex workers as well as to get prostitution away from the public eye in the Sihlquai area of Altstetten, where for years residents dealt with “noise, traffic and other disturbances” from the these activities. These boxes are located in an old industrial area, between a rail yard and the fence along a major highway… out of sight from the public.
The sex boxes will cost the city over 700, 000 francs yearly for operational costs. According to Michael Herzig, the social worker who founded this initiative, “this money is spent for harm reduction – protecting both sex workers and the public.” Unlike similar sex premises found in some German towns, more safety measures will be implemented here. No security cameras will be present, so as not to discourage business, but each sex box will have a panic button that can be pressed in case of an emergency, and security personnel will be available on site. As well, the premises will be equipped with laundry and shower facilities, and a counseling center for the sex workers.
To offset some of the cost of these facilities, the sex workers will pay 40 Swiss Francs a year for a special permit to enable them access, as well as 5 francs a night in taxes… a price I’m sure many sex workers would pay for easier access to clients and extra security to keep them safe. “We can’t solve the whole problem of exploitation and human trafficking,” said Herzig, “but at least we want to reduce the harm, especially the violence.”
This new regulated site opens at 7 PM until 5 AM, and there will be signs on the road that drivers can follow, leading to where the prostitutes will be able to negotiate their price and then drive to an empty box on a “first-come, first-served” basis.
If it sounds like the Swiss have a permissive sexual culture, you’re mostly right, at least in comparison to a lot of the rest of the world, and other countries in Europe. Even the notorious red light district in Amsterdam has been combed through to dismantle many of the “window booths”. In Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the laws are vague: soliciting sex is legal but selling sexual services is not. The Swiss believe that legalizing prostitution prevents sexual exploitation, human sex trafficking and criminality; sex workers are legally required to register with local authorities, pay taxes, undergo health checkups regularly and have medical insurance.
According to police figures, Zurich has about 11 prostitutes per 1,000 people — one of the highest ratios among industrialized countries.