Authorities in Zurich, Switzerland, have come up with a solution to help sex workers plying their trade on the streets – build special booths where they can get on with their businesses unhindered.
According to the BBC, prostitution is legal in Switzerland but government critics say there is not enough protection for the ladies themselves.
Sex trade in Zurich is very lively, particularly in Sihlquai – a street running away from the main station. This street has been home to a very lively sex trade for years.
Local residents have been unhappy with the situation for a long time, and social workers say the scene is highly dangerous for the women concerned.
“They get into cars with men they don’t know, and they don’t know where they will be taken,” explains Ursula Kocher, who runs an advice centre for sex workers. “They get driven out of the city, into a forest, away from anywhere.”
There have been a number of cases of violence, and of women being robbed.
Following the complaints, 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”.
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.
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 loittering.”
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.
“Most women won’t be doing this forever, and we do want them to be healthy [for the future],” Ms Kocher says.