• 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

Switzerland's first sex drive-in, aimed at creating a safer space for Zurich's sex workers and taking prostitution off the streets, opened for business on Monday to a big fanfare, but few customers.

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
Vote set for ban on food trading 'speculation'
Photo: Michael Buholzer

Vote set for ban on food trading 'speculation'

The Swiss will vote on a proposal to ban speculation on agricultural commodities and food, the government said on Wednesday, announcing that organizers had gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a referendum. READ () »

Tweet exposes Iran trip by right-wing Swiss MPs
Swiss People's Party MP Luzi Stamm. Photo: Federal Parliament

Tweet exposes Iran trip by right-wing Swiss MPs

Six members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) wanted to discreetly visit Iran without publicity last week but one of them inadvertently made the trip public in a tweet. 
 READ () »

Armadillo and crocodile meat seized at border
"Bush meat" seized by customs agents. Photo: Federal Customs Administration

Armadillo and crocodile meat seized at border

A Frenchman living in Switzerland was caught entering the country from France with unusual contraband in his suitcase: 16 kilograms of meat from exotic species native to the African jungle. READ () »

UN health agency hits back at vaccine foes
WHO headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Yann Forget

UN health agency hits back at vaccine foes

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) hit back on Wednesday against vaccine deniers who claim that immunization is pointless, risky and that the body is better off fighting disease unaided. READ () »

More protection sought for Lavaux vineyards
Photo: Malcolm Curtis/The Local

More protection sought for Lavaux vineyards

Voters in the canton of Vaud are set to go to the polls for a third time next month to decide on the future of Lavaux, the celebrated vineyard region east of Lausanne. READ () »

Zurich Insurance study warns of cyber risks
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Zurich Insurance study warns of cyber risks

Organizations must dramatically improve their response to cyber risks to avoid a new global shock on the scale of the financial crisis that rocked the world in 2008, a study from a Swiss-based insurer concludes. READ () »

Zurich inaugurates city's giant quartzite plaza
Image: Raumgleiter

Zurich inaugurates city's giant quartzite plaza

The city of Zurich inaugurated the largest plaza in Switzerland on Tuesday night after a 17.2-million-franc ($19.5-million) facelift. READ () »

Geneva minister revives cable car project
Urban cable cars in the French city of Grenoble. Photo: Bastille-Grenoble.com (DR)

Geneva minister revives cable car project

Cable cars — just like those used to carry skiers up mountain slopes — have re-emerged as a public transportation option in Geneva, where authorities are struggling to deal with road congestion. READ () »

Police chief casts doubt on Swiss cup final future
Stade de Suisse. Photo: Martin Abegglen

Police chief casts doubt on Swiss cup final future

The final of the Swiss football cup may no longer be held in Bern after a police chief expressed his exasperation at clashes in the streets surrounding Monday’s final at the Stade de Suisse. READ () »

Swiss drink more homegrown wine
Consumption of Swiss wines within Switzerland rose by 10 percent in 2013. Photo; Caroline Bishop

Swiss drink more homegrown wine

After several years of decline, the Swiss are finally drinking more of their own wine. Consumption of Swiss wines within Switzerland rose by ten percent in 2013 to 107 million litres, according to figures released by the Federal Office of Agriculture (OFAG) on Tuesday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Bern finds solution for Erasmus student exchange programme
National
Bern zoo faces animal cruelty charges over bear cub deaths
Society
Swiss alpine ski champion announces same-sex marriage
Features
Former industrial zone transforms into Zurich’s trendiest spot
Tech
Swiss Solar Impulse team shows off new fuel-free aircraft
International
Suspect in Liechtenstein bank CEO murder case 'likely dead'
Sponsored Article
Caveman comedy comes to Zurich in English
Society
Innovative building provides refuge for hypersensitive tenants
Tech
VIDEO: Teenage boy sends Swiss army knife into stratosphere
International
Switzerland ranks second in world for social progress: report
National
Pharrell Williams set to perform in first Montreux jazzfest concert
Sport
American wingsuit flyer dies after Bernese Oberland accident
Advertisement:
Business & Money
H&M plans hefty Swiss minimum wage for employees by 2015
International
Caterpillar accused by US senator of dodging taxes through 'Swiss plan'
International
Geneva man in Facebook page fight with Italian carmaker Ferrari
International
Schumacher’s wife pays for 'medical suite' at Swiss family mansion
International
Aborted Swiss airlines take-off injures four at London airport
International
Swiss refuse asylum request from topless protest group founder
Business & Money
British expat former banker to head Swiss finance regulator FINMA
National
Swiss honey contains harmful plastic: TV consumer affairs report
Business & Money
Luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe threatens Geneva exit over taxes
Business & Money
World's largest watch fair opens in Basel amid uncertain times
International
'Fergie' credits hikes around Verbier mountains for recent weight loss
Etoiles de Montagne
Sponsored Article
How to summer holiday up a Swiss mountain
Swissbenefits
Sponsored Article
How to avoid Switzerland’s tax haven trap
International
Switzerland's residents are the happiest in the OECD: report
Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

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

2,074
jobs available