The gathering in the Pâquis, a downtown city neighbourhood known for its active sex trade, attracted 80 people who signed up for the STTS, the only officially recognized labour organization in the country for workers in the sex trade.
The union was spearheaded by Angelina, a Colombian woman who has worked as a prostitute in the Pâquis for several years.
In addition to defending sex trade workers against unfair room rents and on such issues as security, the STTS also aims to prevent price-cutting by prostitutes coming from outside Geneva.
Prostitutes established in Geneva have decried cut-throat competition from prostitutes arriving from elsewhere in Europe.
Earlier this year, an employee of the GgClub, an erotic massage parlour, complained that the city was attracting a harmful new kind of prostitution.
Young women try their luck in big hotels without having to pay taxes, the employee told Le Temps.
“Geneva is becoming the brothel of Europe,” she said.
One prostitute told Le Matin that because of the influx of new competition, rates being charged were plummeting.
“My cleaning lady gets paid more than me,” she said.
Cheap competition is just one of many issues the union intends to tackle, Angelina said.
“We have wanted for a long time to become an official body in the eyes of politicians and justice authorities,” she earlier told Le Courrier.
She also hopes to be able to defend the interests of workers in “salons” who often face difficult conditions imposed on them by employers.
The STTS, which hoped to attract 150 members, is open to sex trade workers from across French-speaking Switzerland.
The union plans to work with Aspasie, a group established in Geneva 30 years ago to deal with health issues and discrimination faced by prostitutes.
Switzerland is one of eight European countries where prostitution is legal and regulated by laws.
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