Falling prices and young sex workers in Zurich

Prostitutes have been able to work again on Zurich’s Langstrasse since June 1st. PICTURED: KEYSTONE

Falling prices in the sex industry: Corona is driving very young prostitutes to Switzerland

A week ago, the canton of Zurich also lifted the prostitution ban. Since then, sex workers between the ages of 18 and 20 have increasingly come to Switzerland. They have to offer their services for a lower price because there are too few customers.

Saturday evening on Langstrasse in Zurich: Despite the bad weather, the party crowd gathers by the hundreds on and next to the sidewalks. Sex workers lean against the house walls, smelling the business. Around the Piazza Cella they stand close together, smile and now and then speak to a group of men passing by.

It is the first weekend since the prostitution ban was lifted in the canton of Zurich. Sex work was banned in Zurich for over half a year due to the pandemic. Some of the women and men working in the sector avoided the cantons, where the regulations were more relaxed. Many traveled home to their country of origin.

Noticeably many young women

Now they are back. It is noticeable, however, that there are many new and very young women among them. Beatrice Bänninger, director of Isla Victoria, a counseling center for sex workers, observes this. “Many of them come from Hungary or Romania and are between 18 and 20 years old.” Often it is the first time that they have done this job and many do not know what to expect, says Bänninger. “That worries me very much.”

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Lelia Hunziker, managing director of the FIZ specialist office for trafficking in women and women migration, notes the same thing. The push factors in the countries of origin have increased due to the corona crisis. «The economic situation, especially of low-skilled workers, has worsened. That is why many people in Eastern European countries decided to migrate – and to do sex work, ”says Hunziker.

Another observation that supporting organizations make is the increasing collapse in prices. There are currently many more sex workers than customers who want to buy an erotic service, says Bänninger from Isla Victoria. “And where the supply is greater than the demand, it is known that prices fall there.” What is common in the market economy has fatal consequences for sex workers. Bänninger says: “The suitors are given greater negotiating leverage. They demand practices that involve a health risk, unprotected sex for example, and women can hardly refuse because they desperately need the money. “

More illnesses and unwanted pregnancies

Such tendencies could already be observed during the ban in the past few months. According to an expert report by the ProCoRe network, more sex workers contracted a sexually transmitted disease or became unintentionally pregnant during the prohibition of prostitution. The women who still worked during this time were under great pressure. There was also more violence against sex workers, and there were also cases where clients left without paying after receiving the service.

FIZ managing director Hunziker says it is certainly an improvement that the ban has finally been lifted. But the situation with the many new sex workers and the continuing fall in prices must now be observed. “Above all, it is now important that the advisory organizations reach out to these people and build a relationship of trust.” The less experience the women had, the more important networking would be. “Sex work is heavily regulated. Much needs to be considered. The risk of receiving support from the wrong people and then being exploited is great. ”

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