In an effort to keep prostitutes safe, and moving the sex trade from the public’s eye in Zurich, Switzerland’s first sex drive-in opened this week.
There are 9 garages located in Sihlquai that are equipped with alarms and security guards. As an extra added precaution, customers are not allowed to leave the area with the prostitutes. The drive-in can accommodate 50 prostitutes, will be open every night from 7pm until 5am.
But this drive-in isn’t all balls to the walls. There are rules. Clients must be older than 18, one to a car, and condoms must be thrown out immediately after the deed is done in the bins provided.
“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.”
The project took the equivalent of $2.6 million to fund. But officials feel that it was wise spending.
“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.
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.”
But not everyone is happy with the “you can have it your way” sex drive-ins.
“It will not work, either because the clients will not come or because the site will not be used by prostitutes,” said Sven Oliver Dogwiler, a local politician.
“It puts them in a cleaner space but one that is subsidised by taxes,” he added.