Complete with panic buttons and emergency exits, ‘sex boxes’ are Zürich’s latest effort to control prostitution
Among the many dilemmas about sex is an entirely practical one: where to have it? The bedroom preference isn’t much of an option when it comes to sex workers who solicit from the street, and have to make do with being driven to dodgy locales to complete the transaction. Acknowledging this problem, officials in Zürich (where prostitution is legal) have recently unveiled the city’s first ‘sex boxes’, especially intended for sex workers and their clients. The designated area, cordoned off by a fence, includes a ring road on which motorists can drive, pausing to negotiate with sex workers; they then head over to park in one of the ‘sex boxes’, flanked on both sides with wooden cladding for privacy, and fitted with panic buttons for safety. Condoms and bathroom facilities are also available.
The boxes have been met with mixed reactions by the city’s inhabitants: some object to using taxpayers’ money to subsidize prostitution, while others think the facilities unfairly restrict sex workers’ trade (since the inception of the boxes, soliciting sex outside of designated areas can come with a fine of up to 450 Swiss francs [about R5 000]). City officials argue that the regulated area will help to prevent the criminal element that is often parasitic on the world’s oldest profession. ‘Prostitution is a business basically. We cannot prohibit it, so we want to control it in favour of the sex workers and the population,’ said Michael Herzig, director of social services for sex workers in Zürich. ‘If we do not control it, organized crime is taking over, and the pimps are taking over.’