Switzerland opened its first drive-in sex garages yesterday, amid a debate over the moral and cost implications of the controversial initiative.
The nine “sex boxes”, in a walled, park-like area on the outskirts of Zurich, enable clients to have sex in their cars with prostitutes.
The sex workers will line up on a road leading to the drive-in car ports, where they will be able to negotiate fees with their customers.
Proponents of the scheme argue that it will improve hygiene and safety for prostitutes, saving them from walking the streets or being driven to surrounding forests or wasteland for sexual encounters.
Many of the women are Roma gypsies from central and eastern Europe, and have only a rudimentary grasp of German, increasing their vulnerability.
But others have condemned the initiative as encouraging the sex trade, saying that it is wrong that 2 million Swiss francs (AUD$2.4 million) of tax payers’ money was used to build the facility, located in an old industrial zone to the west of Zurich city centre.
It will cost an additional 700,000 francs to maintain the site each year.
The sex box idea was approved in a popular referendum last year, with nearly 53 per cent voting in favour, but it remains opposed by the populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP).
“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 SVP politician.
“It puts them in a cleaner space but one that is subsidised by taxes.” But the city council says that having sex workers ply their trade outside the city is better than having them causing disturbances and attracting rowdy, sometimes drunken clients in the Sihlquai district in the centre, as happened before.
“Prostitution is a business basically. We cannot prohibit it, so we want to control it in favour of the sex workers and the population,” said Michael Herzig, director of social services in the city. “If we do not control it, organised crime is taking over, and the pimps are taking over.”
Clients must be over 18 and pedestrians and men on motorcycles are not allowed, because the sex must take place in a car.
The council agreed not to install video surveillance cameras, because it was thought they would dissuade many customers from using the site.
The sex boxes will be open from 7pm to 5am every day.
While prostitution is legal in Switzerland, sex workers have to pay a tax of five Swiss francs each night that they work.