Prostitution in Switzerland
Prostitution in Switzerland is legal and regulated; it has been legal since 1942. Trafficking, forcing people into prostitution and most forms of pimping are illegal. Licensed brothels, typically with a reception and leading to several studio apartments, are available. One estimate puts the number of street sex workers in Zurich at 5000.
UNAIDS estimate there to be 20000 prostitutes in the country. The majority are foreigners from the Americas, Central Europe or the Far East. In recent years the number of full service sex workers has increased. Many workers operate using newspaper advertisements, mobile phones and secondary rented apartments, some accept credit cards.
The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the EU of 21 June 1999, which was extended to Romania and Bulgaria in 2009, resulted in an increase in the number of prostitutes in the country.
In 2013, "sex boxes" were erected in the Altstetten district of Zurich (such as Strichplatz Depotweg) and one street where street prostitution was allowed was closed. In the same year, street prostitutes in Zurich had to buy nightly permits from a vending machine installed in the area at a cost of 5 francs.
In January 2014, it was publicly announced that inmates of La Pâquerette, a social therapy department for prisoners, were allowed to visit prostitutes in the Champ-Dollon detention center near Geneva, accompanied by social therapists.
Street prostitution is illegal, except in specially designated areas in the major cities.
Article 182 of the Swiss Criminal Code is designed to combat human trafficking, Article 195 limits the power pimps can have over prostitutes. Swiss prostitutes are self-employed: regular employment requirements such when and where to work would make the employer likely to be in breach of article 195.
It is legal to advertise for "massages" in Swiss tabloid newspapers.
Swiss sex workers are subject to taxation and social insurance contributions.
Foreigners sex worker from the European Union can obtain permission to work for 90 days as a prostitute if they present themselves to the city authorities, undergo a police interview, and provide proof of a health insurance plan.
Full service sex work is only legal if the seller is over 18 years of age, and it is a criminal act to pay for sex with anyone who is under 18 years old. This age was raised from 16 (the country's age of sexual consent) in 2013 to bring the country in line with a Council of Europe treaty signed in 2010. The maximum sentence for those who pay for sex with 16-year-old or 17-year-old prostitutes is three years in prison. The maximum sentence for pimping anyone under 18 is ten years in prison. (see Article 195 of the Criminal Code of Switzerland ).
As part of the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland, prostitution was temporarily banned by the Federal Council under Chapter 3, article 6 of the Ordinance on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19). On 24 March a Thai woman was arrested in Rheineck for not closing her establishment and was subsequently fined 1,500 Swiss francs.
The local authorities in Zurich installed carport-like constructions called Verrichtungsboxen or 'sex boxes' to protect street based sex workers. In 2012, voters approved the creation of "sex boxes" in Zurich to control suburban sex work. These were described as a "success" by local authorities after a year but a number of sex workers who have seen their earnings decline, disagree. The measure has been criticised by several organisations as restrictive.
There are red-light districts in most of the major Swiss cities: Zurich (Langstrasse); Bern (Lorraine); Geneva (Les Pâquis, Pâquis’ four sex centres - the only places in Geneva where the women sit behind windows); Lausanne (Sevelin); Basel (Kleinbasel) and Lugano (Loreto).
Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women, children, and transgender people subjected to sex trafficking. Foreign trafficking victims originate primarily from Central and Eastern Europe—particularly Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria, with increasing numbers from Nigeria and Thailand. Victims also come from China, Brazil, Cameroon, and the Dominican Republic. The number of victims among asylum-seekers continues to grow. Female victims among asylum-seekers came from Nigeria, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, and were often forced into prostitution. Male victims among asylum-seekers came primarily from Eritrea and Afghanistan and were exploited in prostitution.
The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Switzerland as a 'Tier 1' country.
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