Cabinet doesn’t want to ban prostitution

A prostitute waits for clients in Lausanne city centre Keystone

The Swiss government says it is against outlawing prostitution or the buying of sexual services, but has proposed measures to better protect sex workers and to fight against human trafficking.

This content was published on June 5, 2015 - 17:07 and agencies

A 140-page report by the Federal Office of PoliceExternal link was ordered by the cabinet after the prostitution issue and what to do about it was raised several times in parliament.

Prostitution has been legal and regulated in Switzerland since 1942. However, street prostitution is illegal, except in specially designated areas in major cities.

Experience from abroad shows that a ban on prostitution is not the solution, the government said. Studies from other countries have shown that this usually leads to the criminalisation of prostitutes or prostitution going underground. Complementary measures usually produce more success, a statement said on FridayExternal link

For example, the ban on clients buying sexual services in Sweden showed that “a country follows an approach based on its idea of people and society which could not be used in Switzerland without being adapted”. The situation in Sweden and the United States, both of which have partially banned prostitution, remains difficult, the report noted.

It is also difficult to fully estimate the extent of prostitution and human trafficking with the intent to sexually exploit victims in Switzerland because there are no reliable figures, the authors said. This situation should be improved, the report found.

Other goals include allowing prostitutes better access to health services and more legal measures to protect sex workers. These measures should have the effect of reducing or at least not encouraging prostitution. Also mooted is clamping down on abuse within the industry as well as in people trafficking.

Cantons’ role

Cantons would be responsible for carrying out these goals, the report noted. They can draw up measures against violence or issue instructions about health checks.

In 2001 Italian-speaking Ticino became the first canton to draw up a law on prostitution, outlawing the exercising of this profession in areas that compromise public order.

Zurich city has introduced sex boxes for street prostitutes, which it claims have improved working conditions for those concerned.

“The report should serve parliament as a basis to decide on the need for action and how to put into place suitable measures,” the statement said.

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