Although prostitution is legal in Switzerland, critics say the law actually offers little protection to the women themselves. For several years, some areas right in the heart of the town, most notably Sihlquai – a street running away from the main station – have been home to a very lively sex trade. Local residents have long been unhappy with the situation, and social workers say the scene is highly dangerous for the women concerned.
Now the city has come up with a solution it believes will protect them: soliciting on the streets will be forbidden, and instead prostitutes and their clients will be expected to use a custom-built compound on an industrial site in the Zurich suburbs.
The facility opens this week; inside the gates, which are manned by security guards, there is a “strip” which men can drive down, and select the woman of their choice.
There are trees, coloured lights, and benches to sit on, all designed to create an atmosphere which Michael Herzig of the Zurich social services says should not be too “sad”.
On the driver’s side, the boxes are very narrow, making it difficult for him to get out of the car. On the passenger side, there is plenty of space, an alarm button and an emergency exit.
There are also safe-sex reminders: “There is a big HIV prevention advertisement right in front of the car, so the driver has to look at a condom, to remind him he should wear one,” the city authorities say.
And there are very strict rules: “Just one man per car, no bikes or motorcycles, no filming, and of course no littering.”
Meanwhile, just a few steps from the boxes, there is a set of Portakabins where counsellors are on hand, together with a kitchen, toilets and a shower.
The new regulations also require prostitutes to purchase a daily sex workers license for a nominal fee, and have health insurance.
For more on the story please go to the BBC here.