Shutter sign of a brothel in the 15th century in Geneva.

Prostitution in Switzerland is legal and regulated; it has been legal since 1942. Trafficking, forcing people into prostitution and most forms of pimping are illegal.[1] Licensed brothels, typically with a reception and leading to several studio apartments, are available. One estimate puts the number of street sex workers in Zurich at 5,000.[1]

UNAIDS estimate there to be 20,000 prostitutes in the country.[2] The majority are foreigners from the Americas, Central Europe or the Far East. In recent years the number of full service sex workers has increased. Many workers operate using newspaper advertisements, mobile phones and secondary rented apartments, some accept credit cards.


In Switzerland, prostitution has been legal since 1942.[3]

In 1992, the sexual criminal law was revised, since then pimping and passive soliciting are no longer punishable.[3]

The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the EU of 21 June 1999, which was extended to Romania and Bulgaria in 2009, resulted in an increase in the number of prostitutes in the country.[3][4]

In 2013, "sex boxes" were erected in the Altstetten district of Zurich (such as Strichplatz Depotweg) and one street where street prostitution was allowed was closed.[5] In the same year, street prostitutes in Zurich had to buy nightly permits from a vending machine installed in the area at a cost of 5 francs.[6]

In January 2014, it was publicly announced that inmates of La Pâquerette, a social therapy department for prisoners, were allowed to visit prostitutes in the Champ-Dollon detention center near Geneva, accompanied by social therapists.[7][8]

Legal situation

As well as Federal law, individual Cantons may also make additional provisions in the form of legislation or regulations.[3]

Street prostitution is illegal, except in specially designated areas in the major cities.

Article 182 of the Swiss Criminal Code is designed to combat human trafficking,[3] Article 195 limits the power pimps can have over prostitutes.[3] Swiss prostitutes are self-employed: regular employment requirements such when and where to work would make the employer likely to be in breach of article 195.[3]

It is legal to advertise for "massages" in Swiss tabloid newspapers.

Swiss sex workers are subject to taxation and social insurance contributions.[3]

Foreigners sex worker from the European Union can obtain permission to work for 90 days as a prostitute[3] if they present themselves to the city authorities, undergo a police interview, and provide proof of a health insurance plan.

Full service sex work is only legal if the seller is over 18 years of age, and it is a criminal act to pay for sex with anyone who is under 18 years old.[3] This age was raised from 16 (the country's age of sexual consent) in 2013 to bring the country in line with a Council of Europe treaty signed in 2010. The maximum sentence for those who pay for sex with 16-year-old or 17-year-old prostitutes is three years in prison. The maximum sentence for pimping anyone under 18 is ten years in prison.[9][10] (see Article 195 of the Criminal Code of Switzerland [11]).

COVID-19 pandemic

As part of the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland, prostitution was temporarily banned by the Federal Council under Chapter 3, article 6 of the Ordinance on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19).[12] On 24 March a Thai woman was arrested in Rheineck for not closing her establishment and was subsequently fined 1,500 Swiss francs.[13]

Sex boxes

Main article: Sex drive-in

The local authorities in Zurich installed carport-like constructions called Verrichtungsboxen or 'sex boxes' to protect street based sex workers.[14] In 2012, voters approved the creation of "sex boxes" in Zurich to control suburban sex work. These were described as a "success" by local authorities after a year.[15] The measure has been criticised by several organisations as restrictive.[16]

Red-light districts

There are red-light districts in most of the major Swiss cities: Zurich (Langstrasse);[17] Bern (Lorraine);[18] Geneva (Les Pâquis, Pâquis’ four sex centres - the only places in Geneva where the women sit behind windows);[19] Lausanne (Sevelin);[20] Basel (Kleinbasel)[21] and Lugano (Loreto).[22]

Sex trafficking

See also: Human trafficking in Switzerland

Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women, children, and transgender people subjected to sex trafficking. Foreign trafficking victims originate primarily from Central and Eastern Europe—particularly Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria, with increasing numbers from Nigeria and Thailand. Victims also come from China, Brazil, Cameroon, and the Dominican Republic. The number of victims among asylum-seekers continues to grow. Female victims among asylum-seekers came from Nigeria, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, and were often forced into prostitution. Male victims among asylum-seekers came primarily from Eritrea and Afghanistan and were exploited in prostitution.[23]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Switzerland as a 'Tier 2' country in 2021.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b McDonald-Gibson, Charlotte (1 August 2011). "Drive-in sex plan to curb prostitutes in Europe's playground". The Independent. London.
  2. ^ "Sex workers: Population size estimate - Number, 2016". UNAIDS. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Prostitution". The Swiss Coordination Unit against the Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants KSMM. Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  4. ^ Jorio, Luigi (27 November 2012). "Das Recht, mit Sex Geld zu verdienen" [The right to earn money with sex]. SWI Swissinfo (in German). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Der Strichplatz von Zürich Altstetten" [Sexboxes are ready]. Blick (in German). 15 August 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Permit tickets for street prostitutes in Zurich". EPA. Retrieved 5 December 2017.[dead link]
  7. ^ Büchi, Christophe (31 January 2014). "egleitete Freigänge für Prostituiertenbesuch" [Accompanied free passages to prostitutes]. Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Häftlinge gingen auf Freigang zu Prostituierten" [Prisoners went for free sex with prostitutes]. Tages-Anzeiger (in German). 31 January 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Jugendprostitution in der Schweiz: Noch kein Verbot - SWI" (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Switzerland raises legal prostitution age to 18". CBC News. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  11. ^ "SR 311.0 Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch vom 21. Dezember 1937". Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  12. ^ "CC 818.101.24 Ordinance of 13 March 2020 on Measures to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (COVID-19 Ordinance 2)". Swiss Government. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Sex, in spite of the Corona-ban: Thai-love lady sentenced". 3 April 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  14. ^ "E.U. Treaty Spurs Influx of Prostitutes to Zurich". The New York Sun. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  15. ^ "'Sex drive-in' hailed as success after year-long experiment in Zürich". The Guardian. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  16. ^ Boos, Susan (19 September 2013). "Ein Verbot schadet den Frauen" [A ban harms the women]. Woz (in German). Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Window ban for Zurich's prostitutes". Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  18. ^ Hunt, Julie (8 April 2008). "Red light Bern". SWI Swissinfo. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Geneva : around the train station". Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  20. ^ "Red Light Districts - Switzerland". RLD-Europa. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  21. ^ "Signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes". The Local. 28 June 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Si del Cantone alla prima casa di tolleranza in Ticino". Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  23. ^ a b "Switzerland 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.