Geneva sex workers set to form union

Geneva sex workers set to form union
Photo: Joshua Rindner (File)
More than 150 prostitutes in Geneva are planning to form a trade union, in what would be a first for Switzerland.

The sex workers plan to hold a general assembly next week to create the union of sex workers of both sexes (STTS), the French-language newspaper Le Courrier reports.

The drive to create the union comes from a group of prostitutes in the Pâquis neighbourhood, famous for its night life and clubs, the newspaper said.

The planned goal of the union is to defend the interests of sex workers in Geneva and elsewhere in French-speaking Switzerland and to lobby for changes to the law governing prostitution.

Among their aims, the sex workers say they want to battle steep prices for renting rooms, as well as combating unfair competition, and working to improve safety.

One of the organizers of the proposed union is a Colombian woman identified as Angelina, who has worked as a prostitute in Geneva for several years.

She was prompted to act a year ago when the right-wing Swiss People’s Party in Geneva  proposed a law to ban prostitution in the vicinity of schools.

“We have wanted for a long time to become an official body in the eyes of politicians and justice authorities,” Angelina told Le Courrier.

Last year she joined Aspasie, a group set up in 1982 to deal with health issues and discrimination in the sex trade before deciding that further steps were needed.

Some prostitutes pay 3,000 francs ($3,100) a month for a small room, or 150 francs a day for a kitchen reorganized as a bedroom, sometimes more, Angelina said.

Sex workers are in a difficult position when dealing with landlords because they face being turfed out on the street, she added.

In addition to independent prostitutes, there are those who work in “salons” owned by people who procure clients and provide rooms.

The union organizer said people who work in such places face a range of different challenges.

They can be forced to perform acts against their will, including dangerous activities without the use of condoms, she said.

Geneva counts 800 to 900 prostitutes, according to estimates, around five percent of whom are male.


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