• Switzerland edition
 
Zurich's drive-in 'sex boxes' off to slow start
Prostitute stands in front of 'sex boxes' on opening day. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

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

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
EU rejects Swiss bid to rejig free movement deal
EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

EU rejects Swiss bid to rejig free movement deal

The European Union on Thursday formally rejected Switzerland's request to renegotiate their freedom of movement accord so as to take into account a Swiss vote earlier this year to limit immigration, EU sources said. READ  

Strong franc eats into Roche first-half profits
Photo: Roche

Strong franc eats into Roche first-half profits

Pharmaceutical giant Roche on Thursday said its first-half profit fell by seven percent to 5.6 billion francs ($6.2 billion), hit by the strength of Switzerland's currency. READ  

Residents flee as river Emme floods village
Rega helped evacuate homes in the area. Photo: Rega

Residents flee as river Emme floods village

Rega, the Swiss air-ambulance service, evacuated residents of Schangnau in the canton of Bern on Thursday morning as the river Emme broke its banks. READ  

Students race futuristic boats in Lausanne
Students must design a boat that can travel the furthest distance using the least energy. Photo: Hydros

Students race futuristic boats in Lausanne

More than 100 students from six countries are competing in an eco-friendly boat-building competition on Dorigny beach in Lausanne this week. READ  

'Scandalous' car park delays rile festivalgoers
Stromae performed on Wednesday night. Photo: Paleo/Lionel Flusin

'Scandalous' car park delays rile festivalgoers

Festivalgoers attending Nyon’s Paléo festival have reacted in anger after bad weather created long delays to exit car parks on Wednesday night. READ  

Monaco grabs quarter- final place in Gstaad
The Swiss Open at Gstaad takes place at 1,010m. Photo: Alain Grosclaude/AFP

Monaco grabs quarter- final place in Gstaad

Juan Monaco held his nerve in a tight final set to upset third seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 on Wednesday for a second consecutive place in a quarter-final at the Swiss Open. READ  

UBS 'to pay French $1.5 billion over tax evasion'
Photo: Martin Abegglen

UBS 'to pay French $1.5 billion over tax evasion'

Swiss bank UBS was on Wednesday charged with tax fraud in Paris for allegedly helping rich French clients to hide money in Switzerland, a judicial source said. READ  

Renewable energy activities hit ABB results
Photo: Roland Zh

Renewable energy activities hit ABB results

Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB said its profits fell in the second quarter, pulled down by renewable energy activities, despite strong orders, particularly in North America. READ  

Red Cross officially declares Ukraine civil war

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that it considered Ukraine to be in a state of civil war, urging both sides to respect the laws of conflict as civilians bear the brunt. READ  

Israel's actions 'may be war crimes': Pillay
Navi Pillay. Photo: UNHCR

Israel's actions 'may be war crimes': Pillay

Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip could amount to war crimes, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said in Geneva on Wednesday, while also condemning indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants Hamas. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Tech
Hackers exploit 'holes' in Swiss online banking systems: IT experts
Sport
Video of Bern football player's spectacular own goal goes global
Tech
Switzerland stays on top of innovation rankings for fourth year
National
Roger Federer and Lindsey Vonn play tennis at Jungfraujoch (VIDEOS)
Business & Money
Competition commission launches probe into Swiss car leasing 'fiddle'
Health
Down's syndrome cases in Switzerland more than double
National
American family files hefty lawsuit over deadly Swiss balloon crash
Features
Graubünden's panoramic Bernina Express celebrates rail history
National
Study rates Zurich as world's fifth most expensive city for expats
National
Swiss-based human brain project directors hit back at research critics
Business & Money
Switzerland gets the edge on EU with China free trade agreement
National
Entries for new Swiss national anthem competition swell over 200
National
Zurich-based helicopter firm denies role in Schumacher medical leak
Culture
Montreux Jazz Festival debuts live internet streaming of concerts
Features
Tour of Bern’s historic fountains tells story of Switzerland's capital
National
Swiss media lament football team's 'cruel' and 'bitter' defeat
International
The Local expands its reach with the launch of new website in Denmark
Sport
Jubilant press hails hat-trick hero Shaqiri as 'Swiss Messi'
National
New website study reveals inequality in Swiss disposable income
Travel
Switzerland’s largest ski area 4-Vallées breaks up over lift dispute
National
VIDEO: Zurich Zoo launches contest to name newborn baby elephant
Business & Money
CEO-to-worker pay gap grows at biggest Swiss firms: union study
Culture
VIDEO: Swiss performance artist plans naked stroll at Art Basel
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

2,193
jobs available