Skip to main content

Switzerland: Zurich launches 'sex drive-ins'

By Stephanie Ott, for CNN
updated 6:51 PM EDT, Mon August 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sex workers will operate from garage-style structures with alarm buttons and guards
  • The move is intended to take prostitution off the streets of Zurich, says project leader
  • Some 30 to 40 women are expected to work at the site in Sihlquai each night
  • The women can get health checkups on site, as well as advice from social workers

(CNN) -- In an attempt to reduce open street prostitution and to improve security for sex workers, Switzerland's largest city, Zurich, is opening "sex drive-ins" Monday.

The nine garage-style structures, located in Sihlquai, a former industrial zone in the city, are equipped with alarm buttons and guarded by security personnel to ensure the safety of the prostitutes. Customers are not allowed to leave the area with the sex workers.

Read more: Brazil drops 'happy being a prostitute' ad campaign

"Prostitution has escalated in the city," said Michael Herzig, from the Zurich social services department. "It was done out in the open on the street and men harassed passers-by.

"It was noisy and dirty because men took the prostitutes to a side street and left used condoms on the streets. The drive-ins are more discreet and safer."

Sex workers learn English for World Cup
Spain making money from prostitutes

Herzig leads the project, which has cost 2.4 million Swiss francs ($2.6 million) to set up.

"The project is extremely controversial. Prostitution is about morals and religion. But we leave these things aside and see it as a business. The humanitarian aspect is more important for us," said Herzig.

Around 30 to 40 women are expected to work at the site each night. Sex workers have to pay 5 Swiss francs per night to make use of the so-called "sex boxes," but customers don't have to pay an entrance fee.

Read more: Ahead of Brazil World Cup, free English classes planned for prostitutes

The drive-ins are open daily from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and can only be accessed by car. Drivers have to follow a clearly marked route to get to the area, where customers and sex workers can discuss the services offered and agree on a price. The client can then drive into the allocated box, where the service is provided.

There are also showers, toilets, a kitchen and washing machines for the women to use, as well as an advice center where they can seek help from social workers. A gynecologist comes in once a week to offer health checkups for the women.

The city's social services department is running the whole operation and also offers crash courses in German and self-defense courses for the women on site. "All of this will enhance the sex workers' living and working conditions," Herzig said.

Prostitution and consumption of paid sex are legal in Switzerland. Prostitutes are considered self-employed and are liable for taxation.

"We are trying to promote the independence and self-determination of the sex workers," he said. "It's not a unique concept. We went to Utrecht in the Netherlands and Cologne and Essen in Germany, where similar projects exist, to speak to organizers. In Utrecht it's been successfully implemented since 1986."

As well as backing from the authorities, the project in Zurich has a democratic mandate: A referendum was held in March 2012, with 52% of voters in favor.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The U.S. has promised to supply and train "acceptable" rebels in Syria to counter ISIS. But who are they and are can the strategy work?
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Do the Chinese really like to mix their Bordeaux with Coca-Cola?
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Al Qaeda's new Syrian branch, Khorasan, is seeking new ways to attack America and Europe, with a top U.S. intelligence official saying it has "aspirations for attacks on the homeland."
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
updated 2:55 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT