Zurich’s so-called drive-in ‘sex boxes’ opened for business on Monday and got off to a “promising start” according to Thomas Meier, a spokesman for the city’s social services.
Due to the large amount of public interest in the site Meier explained that “expectations were low for the first evening”. But, seemingly, not everyone was put off, with a few clients and around 30 prostitutes making use of the facilities on the first night.
The aim of the publicly funded experiment is to make prostitution safer. There are no surveillance cameras on site, although the sex workers do have a panic button and access to an on-site social worker.
Located in Altstetten in a former industrial area of the city, the project also hopes to take control of prostitution and move it out of the city centre.
The spokesman added that it could take weeks or months before the site is operational at the desired level because “prostitution is a business that requires a certain degree of confidentiality”. On the opening night only a handful of sex workers were seen in the first hour, likely intimidated by the presence of cameras and journalists.
The ‘sex-boxes’, which are accessible only to motorists, can accommodate up to 50 prostitutes and are open all night. There are also bathrooms, lockers, a laundry room and a shower available for use by the sex workers. They need a permit to use the facilities and will have to pay a small tax.
An organisation will also be on site daily to offer them counselling, medical advice and even German lessons.
Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland since 1942, but growing numbers of sex workers and violence attributed to the trade are beginning to cause problems in certain areas of the city, exasperating local residents.