Rights groups decry Swiss campaign to ban sex work

In Switzerland, prostitution is legal. Prostitutes must register with city and health authorities and get regular health checks. Keystone

A campaign to make prostitution illegal in Switzerland is being met with stiff resistance from human rights group.

This content was published on July 9, 2018 - 11:19

The Swiss Aids FederationExternal link, Amnesty InternationalExternal link, the Equality OfficeExternal link of the city of Zurich, are among several advocacy groups rallying against the initiative.

The campaign “Stop Prostitution”External link was launched by the Women’s Centre in Zurich at the end of June and calls for a Swedish-style ban on prostitution, which penalizes the client rather than the sex worker. 

Andrea Gisler, the president of the centre, said that she wants Switzerland to become a country without prostitution because the practice constituted “a violation of human dignity”.

It was a form of sexual violence and an obstacle to achieving equality between the sexes, she added.

But the campaign does not have the backing of various human rights organisations, reported Swiss public television, SRF, on Saturday. The FIZExternal link Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking is also against the ban.

Anja Derungs, spokesperson for the Zurich Equality Office said that “sex work is like any other kind of work and should be treated as such”. A sex worker should be able to decide for herself whether and how she wants to pursue this profession.

+ Cabinet doesn’t want to ban prostitution

Daniel Seiler, Managing Director of the Swiss Aids Federation, said that sex work “is the oldest profession in the world” and would not disappear if a ban was in place. This approach had not worked it Sweden either, where the trade still exists, he noted.

In contrast, making the trade illegal would only make it easier to exploit women, according to Seiler. 

The Women’s Centre in Bern also expressed its opposition to the campaign launched by its counterpart in Zurich. The Swedish model of banning prostitution was not the right way forward. Instead, the Bern centre believes it is their role to help and support women who are legally allowed to work in the industry.

The campaign initiators said that it was their aim to start a public debate about the fundamentals of prostitution in society. Whilst there was no perfect solution, the Swedish model of punishing punters was a preferable option compared to the current practice in Switzerland, they said.

In Switzerland, prostitution is legal.

The Swiss authorities debated the regulations on prostitution in 2015.

The Swedish model was also examined as part of this review.

During a consultation process with government representatives, experts, trade unions and advisory consultants, the cabinet decided that such a ban on prostitution would be counterproductive.

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