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PROSTITUTION

Zurich ready to vote on drive-in prostitution

Residents of the Swiss city of Zurich will vote Sunday on whether to build dedicated garages where prostitutes can ply their trade, in a proposal aimed at moving streetwalkers away from residential zones.

Zurich ready to vote on drive-in prostitution
Alessandro Isnotaurelio

The Zurich vote will be one of several referendums to be held this weekend.

On the federal level, the Swiss would also vote on whether to extend annual holiday entitlements as well as whether the proportion of holiday homes within each commune should be limited.

Proponents for the Zurich referendum want a parking zone built for prostitutes by 2013 at the entrance to the city.

The site would be open from 7pm to 5am, and would have an alley where prostitutes and clients can cruise along and garages where they can carry out their transaction.

The site will be shielded from sight by signs, be fitted with showers and toilets and will feature a gynaecologist for any medical problems and volunteers from the Flora Dora women’s group for any advice.

The proposed site aims to eliminate area’s like Zurich’s Sihlquai area, where about 60 streetwalkers work every night.

Besides nightly traffic jams due to clients cruising along the street, used condoms are among a variety of trash found the next morning on the pavement to the consternation of residents.

“There is a lot of competition along Sihlquai, where many women go with their clients to the backyards of buildings, creating a difficult situation for residents who have to put up with the noise and disorder,” said Ursula Kocher, who heads Flora Dora.

Kocher said that the proposal had the support of the prostitutes themselves, as it could offer better security.

As the parking site would be under the authority of the municipality, officials can get rid of overly aggressive clients, said Kocher.

Three German cities — Cologne, Bonn and Dortmund — have already tried out such garages, but with mixed results. Local associations in Cologne found that such garages helped to reduce violence, while Dortmund said they attracted crime.

Feminist association Zürcher Frauenzentrale is not convinced about the proposal.

“What makes it safer than Sihlquai, where there are many more people?”asked Andrea Gisler, chairman of the association.

“The problem is not solved, just displaced,” she said.

Meanwhile, across Switzerland, a federal referendum will also be held on a push to extend holiday entitlement from the current four weeks to six weeks.

Latest surveys conducted by Swiss national television found however that only 30 percent would vote yes for the proposal which has already been rejected by the government and businesses which warned that it would make labour costs too high.

Union Travail.Suisse had put up the proposal as it finds that a third of employees in Switzerland were suffering from stress at work, and two weeks of additional holidays could remedy the problem.

The Swiss will also vote on whether to limit the proportion of secondary residences to just 20 percent in communes, an issue that is particularly pertinent for ski resorts, many of which have seen a building boom.

Latest opinion polls show that this could be a close call, with those in favour of the limit leading slightly.

“We are aiming to stop the disfiguration of our countryside and soaring property prices for local populations,” said Vera Weber, who introduced the referendum.

For Weber, who is the daughter of a well-known green militant in Switzerland Franz Weber, hotels must be a priority in the mountains.

Under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, anyone can put a question to a referendum if he or she is able to garner the support of 100,000 eligible voters within 18 months.

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REFERENDUM

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum

Switzerland's decision to purchase US-made fighter jets could be put to a referendum,

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum
Swiss fighter jets. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Switzerland’s government on Wednesday backed the purchase of 36 F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin to replace its fleet and five Patriot air defence units from fellow US manufacturer Raytheon.

Switzerland’s current air defence equipment will reach the end of its service life in 2030 and has been undergoing a long and hotly-contested search for replacements.

“The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future,” the government said in a statement.

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

The decision will now be put to the Swiss parliament — and also risks being challenged at the ballot box, with left-wingers and an anti-militarist group looking to garner enough signatures to trigger a public vote.

The F-35A was chosen ahead of the Airbus Eurofighter; the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing; and French firm Dassault’s Rafale.

For the ground-based air defence (GBAD) system, Patriot was selected ahead of SAMP/T by France’s Eurosam.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the government statement said. Switzerland is famously neutral. However, its long-standing position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

“A fleet of 36 aircraft would be large enough to cover Switzerland’s airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions,” the government said.

“The air force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.” 

Long path to decision 

Switzerland began to seek replacements for its ageing fleet of fighter jets more than a decade ago, but the issue has become caught up in a political battle in the wealthy Alpine nation.

The Swiss government has long argued for the need to quickly replace its 30 or so F/A-18 Hornets, which will reach the end of their lifespan in 2030, and the F-5 Tigers, which have been in service for four decades and are not equipped for night flights.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the public vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.

Bern launched a new selection process four years later, and a referendum last year to release six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) for the purchase of the fighters of the government’s choice squeezed through with 50.1 percent of voters in favour.

During the referendum campaign, the government warned that without a swift replacement for its fleet, “Switzerland will no longer be in a position to protect and even less defend its airspace by 2030”.

Currently, the fleet does not have the capacity to support ground troops for reconnaissance missions or to intervene against ground targets.

Meanwhile Switzerland’s current GBAD system is also old and lacks the capacity to meet the widening spectrum of modern threats.

The military currently relies on a range of Rapier and Stinger short-range missiles that have been in service since 1963.

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