Council-funded brothel could open in Zurich amid ban on red-light districts

© Andrea Comas
Switzerland’s biggest city Zurich may open a government-funded brothel, if a new motion introduced by Socialist Party city councillor Christine Seidler passes.

Seidler came up with the idea as a way to ensure sex workers can work safely.

Prostitutes in Zurich have been forced out of the city center following a 2013 bylaw banning sex workers from working on streets that were well-known red light districts.

Although prostitution is legal and regulated in Switzerland, Zurich has a number of gangs involved in the sex trade, with human trafficking an issue.

Once the women were forced to move out of the special zones, they are more susceptible to pimps and violence, Seidler argues, and a brothel run by sex workers would alleviate the risks associated with street prostitution and provide them with better working conditions.

The idea has caused some confusion as members of the Socialist Party ponder being both against prostitution and for an official brothel.

The city already has drive-in sex boxes, which were approved by a referendum in 2013 and are equipped with alarms and security guards.

Sex workers pay US$43 a year to use the boxes as well as a nightly tax of $5.40. There are laundry facilities and a cafe on site. Zurich city authorities say around 25-30 workers use the facilities.

Swiss People’s Party’s (SVP) Martin Götzl believes taxpayers’ money should not be spent on the brothel, saying, “It cannot be the job of the city to operate a brothel with tax money.”

The US federal government tried to run the Mustang Ranch brothel after seizing it from its owner in 1999, but a judge blocked that plan.