Reuters

The city says it wants to protect sex workers, but it's also clearly an attempt to keep prostitutes out of sight.

In 2012, residents of Zurich, Switzerland, voted to ban street solicitation in favor of what is essentially a drive-in prostitution warehouse in the suburbs. The idea is that sex workers who are picked up off the street often don't know where their clients are going to take them. Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland since 1942, but city officials say women are sometimes taken to isolated areas, where they have been robbed and abused. 

By requiring that all sex-work activities—including selection, payment, and the activity itself—take place in a carefully controlled environment, officials hope to cut down on the amount of violence done to sex workers. The BBC explains

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".

But since all business must take place inside the compound, there are drive-in "sex boxes", and here the measures taken to protect the women are very apparent.

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.

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.

A man examines a drive-in sex booth. Each car may contain only one client. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
A sign explaining the rules of a new sex drive-in is pictured during an open day, west of Zurich August 24, 2013. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

And it's not just sex worker safety Zurich officials are concerned about. "Zurich is a destination for sex, but the people of Zurich don't want to see it. The government had to do something," Regula Rother, a sex worker advocate, told the BBC.

Pushing sex work out of the city completely and requiring sex workers to buy daily occupational licenses suggests that the city is trying to discourage the industry as much as protect sex workers. While "no-one is really sure whether women or clients will turn up once the sex boxes are open for business," there's a pretty good chance Zurich's prostitution black market isn't going anywhere. 

Top image: A sign leads the way to the drive-in booths for prostitution. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a highway
    Transportation

    Americans Are Spending Billions on Bad Highway Expansions

    PIRG’s annual list of “highway boondoggles” includes nine transportation projects that will cost a total of $25 billion while driving up emissions.

  2. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  3. Transportation

    America Would Happily Pay Uber An Extra $7 Billion

    Economists put a (big) number on the ride service’s consumer surplus in 2015.

  4. Maps

    The Squirrel Census Answers a Question You Weren’t Asking

    How many squirrels live in New York City's Central Park? Finding the answer was surprisingly complicated.

  5. Design

    What Cities Can Do to Help Birds and Bees Survive

    Pollinators—the wildlife that shuffle pollen between flowers—are being decimated. But they may still thrive with enough help from urban humans.

×