Zurich bans minors from sex trade

Wide open prostitution is coming to an end in Zurich after the city council approved measures to ban minors under the age of 18 from plying the sex trade.

Zurich bans minors from sex trade
Kuzma (File)

In a 108-to-nine vote, the council on Wednesday night adopted regulations designed to prevent 16- and 17-year-olds from practising the world’s oldest profession on the street or indoors.

Swiss federal law only makes prostitution unlawful for people who have not reached the age of 16.

But the city of Zurich’s new regulations get around that hurdle by requiring prostitutes to take out a permit, under a contract which minors are ineligible to sign.

The new rules require prostitutes to pay an annual fee, in addition to showing proof of health insurance coverage and a work permit.

Zurich council also introduced the licensing of “sex salons” to ensure the prostitutes they employ meet the new requirements, with the threat of fines against offenders. 

The moves were welcomed by End Human Trafficking Now!, a Swiss-based NGO that has raised concerns about young people, often from foreign countries, becoming enslaved by Switzerland’s free-wheeling sex industry.

“The fact that they (prostitutes) need legal papers and documents, I think it’s an important step,” Rasha Hammad, spokeswoman for the group, told The Local.

“This makes it easier to monitor the sex trade and safer for them (the prostitutes).”

However, Switzerland has come under fire internationally for its liberal policies regarding the sex trade.

In its 2011 report on global human trafficking, the US state department criticized the Swiss government for allowing the prostitution of children aged 16 and 17, though Bern has promised a federal law against the practice.

Federal police in a report last year identified prostitutes from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Brazil among the 1,500 to 3,000 human trafficking victims in the country.

The canton of Zurich has no prostitution regulations, although these have been introduced in Ticino, Vaud, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura and Valais.

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Sex workers renting Airbnb apartments in Swiss capital: report

More and more sex workers in Bern are renting apartments through apartment sites like Airbnb or using hotel rooms to carry out their business, according to a new report on prostitution in the Swiss capital.

Sex workers renting Airbnb apartments in Swiss capital: report
File photo: Depositphotos

Prostitution is Switzerland with sex workers required to register with local authorities and pay taxes.

But while Bern is currently home to 28 licensed brothels, this number is sinking and there is growing opposition to plans for new establishments.

At the same time, there is a rise in the number of sex workers temporarily renting out apartments using sites like Airbnb, as Bern daily newspaper Der Bund reports.

Read also: Zurich's 'sex boxes' for prostitutes given official thumbs up

There were 12 reported cases in the canton of Bern from April 2017 to April 2018, although the real number is thought to be much higher.

A police spokesperson described the figure as “insignificant” and noted that most of the women involved lacked the necessary work and residence permits required to work in a legal establishment.

But Bern cantonal parliamentarian Christa Ammann, who heads up a specialist unit conducting research into the sex industry, says rules introduced in 2013 requiring brothels to register have made sex work more expensive.

The latest annual report into sex work in the city notes prostitutes are required from 100 to 150 Swiss francs a day to rent a room in a legal brothel. However, there are dozens of apartments listed on Airbnb for less than this amount.

The trend towards the use of private apartments for sex work runs counter to the intention of rule changes in Bern in 2013 which are designed to protect prostitutes from abuse and exploitation.

Read also: Eighty Thai women forced into prostitution in Switzerland

But despite this tendency, police are positive about the new rules, arguing “the situation has completely calmed down” and that authorities now have much tighter control.

Ammann, meanwhile, is calling for prostitution to be completely decriminalized.

Prostitution is legal in Switzerland although individual cantons have different rules on where and when it can be practised. Forcing someone into prostitution is, however, illegal.

Recently, a women's rights group in Zurich called for a Swedish-style ban on sex work in Switzerland, using the video above in its campaign. In the Scandinavian country, it is illegal to pay for sex with clients.

But groups in Switzerland including the Swiss Aids Federation have said such a ban on prostitution would drive sex work underground and make the fight against exploitation of women even more difficult.