The city painted the outdoor bathrooms in soft pink and blue, strung colorful light bulbs among the trees and posted creative signs encouraging the use of condoms to spruce the place up a little and make it seem more pleasant.
“We built the place to be secure for the sex workers. It also had to be discreet for the sex workers and the clientele,” said Michael Herzig of Zurich’s social welfare department. “But we thought if we build the place, we can also make it look good.”
Along with improving safety for prostitutes, the sex boxes are seen as a way to curb trafficking by crime syndicates. Prostitution, escorts and massage parlors are a thriving business in a nation with wealthy and international clientele and tourists.
Zurich requires that street sex workers register with city and health authorities, and it offers health checks and requires that sex workers be at least 18 years old, in keeping with a Council of Europe convention on protecting children from exploitation and abuse.
To use the new boxes, sex workers must obtain a special permit, at a cost of SF40 a year, and pay SF5 a night in taxes, which helps the city offset maintenance costs.
“We can’t solve the whole problem of exploitation and human trafficking, but at least we want to reduce the harm, especially the violence,” Herzig said.