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Zurich’s drive-in brothel so successful, it may be imported to Austria

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The government-sponsored “drive-in brothel” in Switzerland’s financial capital has been so successful that the Austrian government is now considering adopting the same practice. Zurich is Switzerland’s largest and wealthiest city and its officials have hailed the success of the pilot project.

“The new regulation of street prostitution has attained its objectives of protecting the population and the sex workers,” the city said in a statement, quoted by the Guardian newspaper. Prostitutes must pay the city for a license to use the facilities, and they must charge clients a value added tax (VAT) and declare their income to the government.

Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland, long hailed as one of Europe’s most “progressive” countries, since 1942. The country offers licenses to women who work in approved brothels and in designated “red light” districts.

The new scheme, started a year ago, involves licensed car port-like structures where a prostitute can serve her client inside the client’s car. Supporters said these brothel-carports, equipped with alarm buttons and showers, were intended to help regulate spread of the prostitution trade into suburban residential neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Vienna Councillor Sandra Frauenberger told the newspaper Die Presse that councillors are impressed with Zurich’s success. “We need to discuss it first,” she said. “The boxes are on the agenda for the next meeting of the Steering Group.”

She denied that there were complaints against licensed prostitution based on moral objections, saying, “The residents just do not want any noise or fear the risk of harassment.”

While the arrangement is being praised as a success by politicians, police in Switzerland are expressing concerns over significant increases in intra-EU human trafficking.

An article on Swissinfo.ch headlined, “The sex industry is thriving,” noted that according to the government’s records, legalized Swiss prostitution is worth 3.2 billion Swiss Francs (approximately $2.65 billion U.S.) a year. The article quotes a report by the federal police saying the incidence of prostitution has risen 20 percent since 2003.

But this does not mean that Swiss nationals are turning to prostitution, since the same report notes that the uptick in the number of prostitutes has been paralleled by an increase in cases of human trafficking, mainly from Eastern Europe.

The report notes that the majority of prostitutes working in Switzerland are “immigrants,” and police are warning of more increases in such crimes due to the ease of movement across national borders within the EU.

According to the report, the Basel canton saw two new brothels open a month since 2003 while Geneva saw a 50 percent increase.

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A report published this May on human trafficking by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) noted that Switzerland was one of the European countries that saw an “alarming trend” of increases in human trafficking cases, along with Germany, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey. Such cases increased 18 percent, while the conviction rate fell by 13 percent between 2008 and 2010.

The report noted that “intra-EU trafficking represents the majority of the identified and presumed cases: 61 percent of victims of trafficking are EU citizens.”

Several of the report’s interlocutors in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands “indicated that the EU enlargement of 2007 had marked a milestone, as the largest share of victims of trafficking come from Bulgaria and Romania,” the report said.

A similar report on human trafficking in Switzerland by the U.S. State Department, said that Switzerland “is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and children forced into begging and theft.”

That report said that the victims come mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, and Albania.

“Federal police assessed that the total number of potential trafficking victims residing in Switzerland was between 2,000 and 3,000,” the American report said.

It noted that the Swiss government “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” but is “making significant efforts to do so.”

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