The legal age of prostitution in Switzerland is set to rise from 16 to 18, after the House of Representatives followed the Senate in passing the necessary changes for the implementation of an international child protection convention.
People who pay for sex with 16- or 17-year-old prostitutes will face up to three years in prison. Underage prostitutes themselves face no punishment.
The cabinet can now ratify and implement the Lanzarote Convention – otherwise known as the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse – which it signed in 2010.
Another change is that supporting or promoting underage prostitution is to become a punishable offence. Pimps and owners of brothels or escort agencies face prison sentences of up to ten years.
Also illegal will be the consumption of underage pornography – not just at present its possession.
The House of Representatives passed the bill unanimously.
The rightwing Swiss People’s Party failed in its aim to get the maximum sentence set at five years instead of three.
“In Switzerland’s interests”
The Lanzarote Convention has been signed by 46 states and ratified by 28. It aims to protect children against any form of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
To this end, it requires criminalisation “of all kinds of sexual offences against children”. It sets out that states in Europe and beyond “shall adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators”.
The Swiss penal code already corresponds in large part to these demands, but Switzerland is currently one of the few European countries to allow prostitution from 16, which is also the age of consent. Raising the age of prostitution to 18 was necessary for ratification.
“It’s in Switzerland’s interests to adopt the convention, so that it too can benefit from the harmonisation of practices and collaboration between signatory states,” said Viola Amherd from the centre-right Christian Democratic Party.
After the vote on September 10, 2013, the bill went back to the Senate on a technicality.
The Senate then passed the bill on September 19.end of infobox
swissinfo.ch and agencies