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Zurich's prostitutes are facing new legislation aimed at keeping their activities strictly behind closed doors. The city parliament has introduced a ban on "window prostitution" which had led to comparisons between Zurich and Amsterdam. Registered prostitution in licensed brothels has been permitted across Switzerland since But street prostitution remains illegal, except for in certain areas specifically designated by local authorities.
The city council says that prostitutes in Zurich have been seeking to get around the street ban by displaying themselves in windows and attracting passing customers. The Green Party politician agrees with her colleagues, however, that prostitution is one of the biggest social challenges facing the city. Last year new prostitutes were registered in Zurich, an increase of more than a third on the previous year, bringing the total number of legal prostitutes up to around 3, The number of unregistered prostitutes is difficult to estimate but more than were arrested by police in With a general population of just , living in Zurich, approximately one woman in 55 would appear to be working in the city's sex industry.
According to rough estimates provided by the European HIV prevention network, Europap, that puts Zurich a lot closer to Amsterdam one woman in 35 than to large cities such as London one in It also makes me wonder what the whole emancipation movement was for. The problem lies more in the use of prostitution to cover illegal immigration - the import and export of women, so to speak - along with extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Stretching out behind the city's main train station, Langstrasse and its surrounding area have become the main stomping ground for Zurich's illegal prostitutes. Although Langstrasse has long been known as an "entertainment district", its generally low-income residents complain that the size of the local sex industry has reached intolerable levels in recent years, forcing many to leave the city.
But the prostitutes and their supporters are already fighting back. If the people who want to clean up Langstrasse are so concerned about society, they should also think about what life is like for the prostitutes. But despite this concern, Stocker admits that the new ban on window prostitution marks a significant step back from the liberal attitudes of recent years. However, the politician insists that the legislation will have a symbolic effect, telling all those involved in the industry that the lawmakers "are looking at them".