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Switzerland's first sex drive-in opened this evening

The new drive-ins are designed to be safer for sex workers, with alarm buttons, doctors and security guards on-hand – but will people actually use them?

imageA row of the wooden drive-in ‘boxes’ in Zurich. (AP Photo/John Heilprin)

SWITZERLAND’S FIRST SEX drive-in officially opened in Zurich this evening, aimed at creating a safer space for sex workers and taking prostitution off the city’s streets.

The drive-in, in a former industrial zone in the west of the city, has a track where the sex workers can show off their assets and negotiate a price, and nine so-called “sex boxes” where they and their clients can park and conclude the transaction.

Opening at at 7:00 pm (5pm GMT) this evening, the downtown street of Sihlquai, where barely-dressed street-walkers have long openly and sometimes aggressively plied their trade to the dismay of residents and businesses, will become off-limits to prostitution.

The drive-in is designed to be safer, with security guards on hand to ensure there is only one man in each car that enters as well alarm buttons in each “sex box” and on-site doctors and social workers.

However, some prostitutes have voiced concern that the strictly controlled environment of the drive-in would scare off their customers, and Zurich police said it remained unclear whether they and their clients would agree to the move.

“That is the big question. We have no idea how many women will show up,” police spokesman Mario Cortesi told AFP.

imageA poster hangs in one of the boxes. (AP Photo/John Heilprin)

The new sex drive-in was approved by 52.6 per cent of Zurich voters in a March 2012 referendum.

When AFP visited Sihlquai before the drive-in officially opened, women were standing on street corners in little more than their underwear, and sometimes even less.

One woman wiggled her naked behind at passing cars as a mother cycled past with her young child and a bag of groceries.

Michael Herzig, director of social services for sex workers in the city, insisted that since the city could not ban prostitution altogether, “we want to control it in favour of the sex workers and the population.”

“Because if we do not control it, organised crime is taking over, and the pimps are taking over,” he told AFP.

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imageThe row of boxes sits on a construction site. (AP Photo/John Heilprin)

Cortesi said around 100 women had recently been working Sihlquai, adding that if the prostitutes do not want to go to the new drive-in there are two other sites in Zurich where they can legally work.

He said some 1,200 women — mainly from Eastern Europe — registered as sex workers last year in Switzerland’s largest city. But since only newcomers to the trade are listed and many likely work illegally, the true number of prostitutes in the city remains unclear.

The “sex boxes” have been built to make it easy for the passenger but difficult for the driver to get out of the car, said Ursula Kocher, head of the Flora Dora support network for prostitutes which will help operate the new drive-in.

Kocher stressed the dangers of street prostitution, pointing out that clients can drive anywhere with the prostitutes, who have no protection if the situation turns violent.

- © AFP, 2013

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