New drive-in "sex boxes" open for business today in Zurich as part of the city's attempt to curb street prostitution and protect sex workers. Each of the nine open garages—dubbed "sex boxes" by the Swiss media—are equipped with an emergency call button and a poster promoting safe sex. Additional features in the compound include bathrooms, showers, lockers, cafe tables, and laundry.
Trained social workers will be stationed near the compound to respond to emergencies, in addition to increased police presence in the area. "We can't solve the whole problem of exploitation and human trafficking," Michael Herzig of Zurich's social welfare department told AFP, "but at least we want to reduce the harm, especially the violence."
Prostitution is legal in Switzerland but Zurich restricts this activity to certain areas. Funding for this controversial project was approved by Zurich voters last year in hopes of moving sex traffic away from the city's downtown area, where it has become a public safety concern due to unsanitary conditions, aggressive men, and related criminal activity.
The "sex box" experiment is modeled after the drive-in brothels—or "sex garages"—that exist in several cities in Germany and the Netherlands which have had mixed success in improving safety since they opened in 2001. "It's an experiment," Jean-Marc Hensch, a neighborhood association leader in Zurich, told AFP, "It is absolutely urgent to find a solution."
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Though this $2.6 million project has the support of about 52% of Zurich's voters who approved the sex boxes last March, others are not as optimistic. "It will not work, either because the clients will not come or because the site will not be used by prostitutes," said Sven Dogwiler, a member of Switzerland's popular right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) which opposes the sex boxes. "It puts them in a cleaner environment but one which is subsidized by taxpayers," he told AFP.