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New sex trade union targets price cutting

Switzerland’s first union for male and female prostitutes launched on Thursday following a founding meeting in Geneva’s red light district.

New sex trade union targets price cutting
Photo: Kuzma

The gathering in the Pâquis, a downtown city neighbourhood known for its active sex trade, attracted 80 people who signed up for the STTS, the only officially recognized labour organization in the country for workers in the sex trade.

The union was spearheaded by Angelina, a Colombian woman who has worked as a prostitute in the Pâquis for several years.

In addition to defending sex trade workers against unfair room rents and on such issues as security, the STTS also aims to prevent price-cutting by prostitutes coming from outside Geneva.

Prostitutes established in Geneva have decried cut-throat competition from prostitutes arriving from elsewhere in Europe.

Earlier this year, an employee of the GgClub, an erotic massage parlour, complained that the city was attracting a harmful new kind of prostitution.

Young women try their luck in big hotels without having to pay taxes, the employee told Le Temps.
 
“Geneva is becoming the brothel of Europe,” she said.

One prostitute told Le Matin that because of the influx of new competition, rates being charged were plummeting.

“My cleaning lady gets paid more than me,” she said.

Cheap competition is just one of many issues the union intends to tackle, Angelina said.

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

She also hopes to be able to defend the interests of workers in “salons” who often face difficult conditions imposed on them by employers.

The STTS, which hoped to attract 150 members, is open to sex trade workers from across French-speaking Switzerland.

The union plans to work with Aspasie, a group established in Geneva 30 years ago to deal with health issues and discrimination faced by prostitutes.

Switzerland is one of eight European countries where prostitution is legal and regulated by laws.

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PROSTITUTION

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.