• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Zurich's drive-in 'sex boxes' off to slow start

Malcolm Curtis · 27 Aug 2013, 12:20

Published: 27 Aug 2013 12:20 GMT+02:00

Throngs of reporters but only a handful of sex workers were at the opening of the Zurich site at 7pm.
   
Television cameras, photographers and journalists jostled to get through the high fence-gate, discreetly displaying the red umbrella icon that designates a regulated sex work area.
   
A few minutes later, a prostitute sitting in the passenger seat of a caravan arrived, covering her face.
   
Within the hour, the number or workers had only increased to four, all flatly refusing to have their pictures taken or talk to the media, according to an AFP photographer at the site.
   
The drive-in, which as darkness fell was bathed in colourful lights, has a track where the sex workers can show off their assets and negotiate a price, and nine so-called "sex boxes" where they and their clients can park and conclude the transaction.
   
Machines looking like parking metres had been installed at the last minute.

The prostitutes who work here will be required to contribute five francs ($5.40) each night in taxes to help Zurich cover the cost of running the place.
   
The drive-in, which has room to accommodate around 50 prostitutes, will be open every night from 7pm until 5am and is one of three spaces in the city where prostitutes can work legally.
   
With the opening of the new site however, Sihlquai, Zurich's most notorious red-light street, where barely-dressed street-walkers have long openly plied their trade to the dismay of residents and businesses, has become off-limits to prostitution.
   
Before the ban took effect, AFP visited Sihlquai, where police say some 100 women had been working, seeing prostitutes standing on street corners in little more than their underwear, and sometimes even less.
   
One woman wiggled her naked behind at passing cars as a mother cycled past with her young child and a bag of groceries.
   
Michael Herzig, director of social services for sex workers in the city, said that since the city could not ban prostitution altogether, "we want to control it in favour of the sex workers and the population".
   
"Because if we do not control it, organised crime is taking over, and the pimps are taking over," he told AFP.
   
The drive-in, approved by 52.6 percent of Zurich voters in a March 2012 referendum, is designed to be safer for the sex workers, with security guards on hand to ensure there is only one man in each car that enters as well alarm buttons in each "sex box", on-site doctors and social workers.
   
The "sex boxes" have been built to make it easy for the passenger but difficult for the driver to get out of the car, said Ursula Kocher, head of the Flora Dora support network for prostitutes which will help operate the new drive-in.
   
Kocher stressed the dangers of street prostitution, pointing out that clients can drive anywhere with the prostitutes, who have no protection if the situation turns violent.
   
However, some prostitutes have voiced concern that the strictly controlled environment of the drive-in would scare off their customers, and Zurich police said it remained unclear whether they and their clients would agree to the move.
   
"That is the big question. We have no idea how many women will show up," police spokesman Mario Cortesi told AFP.
   
While there was little activity at the opening Monday, the prostitutes and their customers may well be waiting for the media spotlight to go black: after the first hour, all the reporters were asked to leave.
   
Cortesi said some 1,200 women -- mainly from Eastern Europe -- registered as sex workers last year in Switzerland's largest city. But since only newcomers to the trade are listed and many likely work illegally, the true number of prostitutes in the city remains unclear.
   
The city is set to evaluate the project after it has been operating for three months.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss Wawrinka advances to the French Open last-eight
It was Wawrinka's fifth win in five meetings with Troicki. Photo: AFP

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka moved into the French Open quarter-finals on Sunday where he will face a Spanish left-hander who isn't named Rafael Nadal.

Vast Swiss rail tunnel finally sees light at end of long wait
Workers standing in one of the Gotthard base access tunnels. Photo: AFP

When Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner came up with the idea to build the world's longest rail tunnel under the Alps in 1947, he predicted the visionary project could be finished by the start of the 21st century.

London Olympic athletes fail new doping tests
IOC president Thomas Bach announced the news. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/ADP

The Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee reports 23 new doping failures from 2012 Games.

Swiss supermarkets look to scrap free plastic bags
Coop is among the supermarkets considering the idea. Photo: Coop

Voluntary agreement may be the solution after a commission quashes idea of outright ban.

Head-on crash leaves Swiss motorcyclist dead
The accident happened on the way to Les Mosses. File photo: Falk Lademann

A motorcyclist died in a head-on crash with a car on a mountain road in Vaud.

Bern renews funding for controversial arts centre
Bern town hall. File photo: Dennie Jarvis

The Reitschule has been granted a reprieve after authorities in the city agreed a 1.5 million franc grant to keep it going until 2019.

Neighbours’ day: Swiss cities join growing European party
Around 40 towns in Switzerland will celebrate Neighbours' Day. Photo: Tag der Nachbarn

St Gallen becomes the latest Swiss town to take part in European Neighbours’ Day.

Swiss boffins create cannabis e-cigarette
File photo: Marcel van Hoorn/AFP

"Cannavaping" for medical use is safer than a joint and better than a pill, say Lausanne scientists.

Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
The resort of Verbier in the canton of Valais. File photo: The Local

Valais and Vaud launch joint candidacy for the 2026 winter Olympics.

Ticino beaches praised in European report
Bathing spots on Lake Lugano were among those rather excellent. Photo: Roland Gerth/Swiss-image.ch

More than 100 Swiss beaches have been rated as excellent for water quality in a European report.

Photo: Swiss Tourism
Features
10 unspoken rules for fitting in with the Swiss
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Photo: Alp Transit Gotthard
National
Gotthard base tunnel: what you need to know
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Sport
Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Photo: Broad Bean Media
National
Basel: Muslim schoolboys must shake hands or face fine
Photo: Emmanual Dunand/AFP
Sport
Brother of Belgian bomber wins gold in Switzerland
Photo: Gstaad Tourism
National
Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
Photo: Cervo
Travel
In pictures: Switzerland’s most welcoming hotels
Photo: Aargau cantonal government
‘Beast of Rupperswil’ was local football coach
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Features
Geneva exhibition marks 200 years of Frankenstein
Photo AFP
National
Swiss basic income campaign sets Guinness world record
Photo: St Gallen police
Society
Police hunt killer of man shot dead in St Gallen street
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Society
Presumed jihadist could have Swiss nationality quashed
Photo: Zurich Zoo
Culture
Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Swiss farmer loses appeal in row over noisy cow bells
Photo: Esparta Palmer
Health
44-year-old woman refused fertility treatment on insurance
File photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Society
Jilted admirer shocks woman with tattoo... of her face
File photo: Flickr
Health
Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
Swiss basic income vote: what you need to know
 Photo: Heinrich Plum
National
Lidl uses German mountain to promote its Swiss products
4,576
jobs available