Basel improvises to deal with street prostitution

Basel police want prostitutes to respect the law when it comes to looking for business in the city. To do this, they’ve come up with an unusual solution. (SRF/

After complaints from people living in Basel’s red light district, the authorities marked out areas where prostitutes are allowed to stand with special green pictograms. The authorities estimate the numbers of sex workers in Basel to be around 800. Between 30 and 50 actually work on the streets, and the remainder work in salons, brothels, bars and escort services. 

Over the last year police had to fine around 120 women who were looking for customers outside the dedicated zone. The situation has become more challenging with a high turnover of women coming from Eastern European countries using the ability to travel to Switzerland for up to 90 days without a visa. 

Last year the government proposed measures to better protect sex workers and to fight against human trafficking. A 140-page report by the Federal Office of Police 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. Zurich city has introduced sex boxes for street prostitutes, which it claims have improved working conditions for those concerned.

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