Switzerland’s sex industry sees punters order hookers like Ubers, have sex in seedy ‘boxes’ and rakes in £3bn

SCANNING his passport, a man fills out paperwork to finalise the details of his booking.

But this isn’t for a holiday; it is for sex with a woman on an hourly rate.

Welcome to Switzerland, where prostitution is legal and paying for sex has become as simple as ordering an Uber

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Welcome to Switzerland, where prostitution is legal and paying for sex has become as simple as ordering an UberCredit: Darren Fletcher
Zurich-based entrepreneur Arik, 33, has created website Saferchoice — known as Choice — in the hope its verification technology will keep sex workers safer

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Zurich-based entrepreneur Arik, 33, has created website Saferchoice — known as Choice — in the hope its verification technology will keep sex workers saferCredit: Darren Fletcher
Drive-in sex structures in Zurich — each large enough for one vehicle — to provide a safe and discreet environment for sex workers and clients away from residential areas

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Drive-in sex structures in Zurich — each large enough for one vehicle — to provide a safe and discreet environment for sex workers and clients away from residential areasCredit: Darren Fletcher

Welcome to liberal Switzerland, where prostitution is legal and paying for sex has become as simple as ordering an Uber.

As well as street prostitution, now websites and apps offer clients a range of sexual services, spanning all kinds of kinks and fetishes, at the click of a button.

The sex industry is thought to be worth £2.9billion — more than the country’s domestic cheese production.

But while it sounds like a sex-positive utopia, for thousands of women plying the trade across the country things are far from safe.

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Geneva, the second largest city in Switzerland, attracts more than two million people every year — many of them sex tourists.

Driving around the area, The Sun saw scantily clad women posing in brothels, like those found in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district, and in the windows of laundrettes and car washes.

Some braved biting-cold temperatures of -4C on the street, watched closely by their pimps.

Sex workers must register with the local canton (state) and, while requirements vary, condoms are mandatory. But despite being legal, many find themselves in danger.

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In 2014 a Swiss financier, named only as Robert S, murdered a Polish sex worker in a £560-a-night hotel room, in Zurich, before stuffing her body in his wine fridge.

He was later jailed for 17 years.

‘Really nervous’

Zurich-based entrepreneur Arik, 33, has created booking website Saferchoice — aka Choice — in the hope its verification technology will keep sex workers safer.

He says: “Just one in every 534 sexual violence or assault cases get reported in Switzerland.

“Given that there are an estimated 12million transactions for sex a year, we know some of these will be in the paid companionship industry.”

Brits are among the top clients of sex workers in Geneva.

At one brothel — where clients pay 100 Swiss francs (£92) clients for 20 minutes of sex — window girl Andrea, from Romania, said: “British guys are so polite, I would like to see more of them.”

Another girl who works in the same area, said: “British guys like to talk more than anything. Before, after, and even during.”

Catalina, a brothel manager, told The Sun: “We get a lot of English people.

“They tend to be a bit drunk, but they’re still nice.

“They can get a bit embarrassed when it comes to having the presentation of the girls and picking one.

“Often they’ll just ask for the first one or the prettiest one.

“I think they’re just really nervous.”

“All the girls in Geneva are legally registered.

“It gives them police protection should anything go wrong and as a result the establishment welcomes a higher class of client.”

Brazilian Victoria, 24, who has also worked in Germany, Spain and Amsterdam, said: “This is the best place I have worked because it feels safe.

“Women here are trusted to set their boundaries.

“We’re not asked to do anything we don’t want to do.”

When asked why she does it, Victoria replies: “For the money.

“I will be a billionaire one day.”

Fellow escort Lydia, 22, from France, agrees and admits she likes “older men” because they tend to be “more experienced” and have “too much money for just them”.

Owner Leyla said: “While my girls earn money, it’s certainly not easy money.

“They put in a lot of work when it comes to their appearance, investing emotional time in a client and so on.

“Not everyone can do it.”

In Zurich, which has 5,000 registered sex workers, the city council attempted to tackle the problems associated with street prostitution more than a decade ago.

Residents voted to build drive-in structures — each large enough for one vehicle — to provide a safe and discreet environment away from residential areas.

Run by the local government, the neon-lit wooden boxes have an alarm button that summons on-site guards in case of trouble and waste bins for condoms.

The sites, which also provide sexual health services and counselling for workers, cost £628,000-a-year to run.

The going rate is £98 for full sex, £40 for “hand relief”.

But the area is covered with graffiti and has limited light, giving it a seedy atmosphere as men ogle the women from inside their cars.

Despite authorities declaring the sex boxes a success, they have failed to curb the growing illegal prostitution run by violent traffickers in other areas of the city.

Less than a mile away, hundreds of girls stand on street corners under the watchful eye of thuggish pimps.

These women have been slipped in under the radar, often thanks to extreme violence, and are driving down prices for sex.

One, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I used to earn 10,000 to 13,500 a week, but now I’m lucky if it’s 8,500 a week.

Threats of violence

“Illegal girls are driving the price down, and they’re being put in danger.”

Langstrasse was once the bustling heart of Zurich’s red-light district, but it was closed down after residents complained.

Violent gangs have taken over the area, bringing women in from Eastern Europe, South America and Africa against their will.

They arrive already in debt to their captors.

One survivor of being trafficked, who was able to get out thanks to charity HeartWings, told The Sun: “I had to have sex with strange men.

“The men felt they could do anything with me because they had paid for it.”

While pimping is illegal in Switzerland, carrying a prison sentence of 18 years, convictions are rare.

Between 2015 and 2021 cops secured just 71 convictions despite 630 cases of human trafficking being reported.

Olivia Frei, from Zurich’s Women Centre, which wants the country to adopt the Nordic model where the buyers of sex are criminalised, said: “These women are brought here thousands of pounds in debt to the pimps and they have no recourse to leave because they and their families back home are threatened with violence.

“We know of one place in Zurich where four girls share a small room and each pay 200 Swiss francs (£184) each day for that room.

“If one girl has a client, the rest have to leave.

“It means they are exhausted, have no space for themselves, and it leaves them struggling mentally.

“It makes leaving almost impossible.”

But women’s charities fear making the trade illegal would only make it easier to exploit women.

Now pioneers like Arik hope his website, Choice, will keep legal sex workers safe by requiring clients to supply identification and a photo.

He told The Sun: “Choice is the safest booking platform for companionship and intimacy.

“We know from our research that women are often left in unsafe situations when a client doesn’t behave well in a variety of ways.”

Initial browsing of Choice sees the workers’ photos blurred, but registering and confirming a phone number removes some of the distortion.

To be able to see an entire profile users must verify their identity, with a legal ID and photo.

A QR code is sent to punters 15 minutes before a meet, so sex workers can check they are the right person.

The code changes every 15 seconds to stop clients being able to send it to someone else.

It is only once both parties have confirmed the rendezvous went well that all the securely held information is deleted.

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Arik said: “It’s important that everyone feels protected.

“The platform gives a bigger reach to everyone and makes it easy for providers to reject a customer.”

Brothel madam Catalina says: 'We get a lot of English people. They tend to be drunk but they're still nice. They can get a bit embarrassed when it comes to picking a girl.

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Brothel madam Catalina says: ‘We get a lot of English people. They tend to be drunk but they’re still nice. They can get a bit embarrassed when it comes to picking a girl.Credit: Darren Fletcher
Driving around Geneva, The Sun saw women in brothels, like those in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district, and even in windows of laundrettes and car washes

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Driving around Geneva, The Sun saw women in brothels, like those in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district, and even in windows of laundrettes and car washesCredit: Darren Fletcher
A hostess stands at the entrance of a nightclub located next to the famous Langstrasse street in Zurich

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A hostess stands at the entrance of a nightclub located next to the famous Langstrasse street in ZurichCredit: Reuters