Geneva charges Chinese for illegal prostitution

A 56-year-old Chinese woman who ran two massage parlours in Geneva remains in custody for alleged encouragement of prostitution, money laundering, violation of the law on foreigners and other charges.

Geneva charges Chinese for illegal prostitution
Photo: AFP

The woman, who is reportedly living illegally in Switzerland, failed to inform authorities that the salons were used for prostitution, the cantonal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

She is accused of attracting young women from China to come to Geneva illegally to work as prostitutes in her salons located in the city of Geneva and in the suburb of Lancy, the prosecutor’s office said.

The woman was arrested last Thursday and five alleged prostitutes were also arrested, the ATS news agency reported.

Prostitution is not illegal in the canton of Geneva but it is regulated.

In this case, the prosecutor’s office said the suspect employed women who worked as prostitutes without residence and work permits.

The office alleged that she charged elevated commissions for the services provided by the prostitutes and imposed “a certain daily quota of customers”.

The owner of the salons denies these allegations.

She told investigators that she simply made available to her compatriots places to live and to work “permitting them, if they wanted to, to provide simple traditional massages, without sexual connotation”, the prosecutor’s office said.

While the investigation into the case continues, the six women remain in provisional detention. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere In Geneva, an expat couple living in a semi-detached home in a residential neighbourhood of the municipality of Versoix have filed a complaint about a massage parlour that recently opened up in the adjoining home.

The parlour operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Tribune de Genève.

The couple have a 10-year-old daughter who is often woken up in the middle of the night by the noise of customers coming and going in their cars, her mother is quoted as saying by 20 Minutes online.

She said her husband has had to erect opaque netting between the properties to hide from view “prostitutes suntanning topless on the lawn of the massage parlour".

Versoix Mayor Patrick Malek-Asghar said he was astonished by the presence of such an establishment in a residential zone, 20 Minutes reported.

But the “municipality unfortunately does not have the power to authorize or ban this kind of activity”, the mayor said.

The woman responsible for the massage parlour is reported as saying that the business is operating legally and that the police have been properly informed.

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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.