Zurich introduces a raft of measures next year to try to regulate the city’s sex industry which officials admit has got out of control. Brothels and sex workers will require permits and street prostitution is being moved to three designated areas to try to make it safer and more discreet. At a press conference in Zurich on Monday, city officials outlined their plans again and said the new booths or sex boxes to accommodate prostitutes and their customers will open in August.
“We want to regulate prostitution because until now it was the law of the jungle….” Michael Herzig works for the city’s social welfare department. “So it was the pimps who decided the prices for instance. We want to as much as possible the city to regulate prostitution, the city to define what we have in Zurich and what not but we are trying to go to a situation which is better for the prostitutes themselves, for their health and security and also for the population which lives in Zurich.
New laws on prostitution come into force in Zurich in January. While the legal age for prostitution in Switzerland as a whole remains 16 for now, sex workers in Zurich will have to be at least 18 years old. But the most noticeable difference will come in August when new sex boxes open in Altstetten outside the city centre and street prostitution will be forbidden along the Sihlquai embankment.
“The big difference is that until now prostitution is in a public space. Now we are going to change this, transfer it from the street, from a public to a private space to an old industrial area which belongs to the city, that give us the possibility to define the rules of prostitution in this space.”
In terms of numbers, far fewer prostitutes work the streets than in brothels and agencies but their problem has created a problem and an image problem which Zurich is keen to tackle. City Councillor Martin Waser is responsible for social issues.
“Conditions have become intolerable in recent years,” he says. “It’s very difficult for the prostitutes because they are unprotected but we also have big problems with pedestrians, particularly groups of men who harass the women and make a lot of noise and we can avoid all these problems in the approved space.”
Besides the drive in facilities at Altstetten, street prostitutes will be allowed to ply their trade in two other specific zones – centrally located Niederdorf, the city’s pedestrian nightlife area and at drive-by Brunau. Clients who meet street prostitutes in non-approved areas face fines of 450 francs.
The switchover is set to take place in August from one day to the next and city councillor Daniel Leupi, responsible for police issues is under no illusions.
“The big challenge will be to move the strip from the actual place at the Sihlquai to the Strichplatz we call it at one go with all the information to the sex workers. That will be a very difficult issue.”
It’s not only clients who will be paying for the new services. From January, brothels have to apply for licences. Criteria include fair working conditions, fair prices and a commitment to preventing violence. Basic cost 300 francs with additional inspection fees.
And street prostitutes will have to fork out 40 francs for their own licences subject to having a work permit, being registered with a health insurer and taking counselling sessions with the Flora Dora advisory service. In addition, every night that they ply their trade, they will need to buy a ticket from a machine at five francs a go.