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Swiss authorities refuse to close brothel, say it ‘fulfills social need’  4 Weeks ago

Source:   USA Today  

GENEVA – With its charming centuries-old buildings and a picturesque harbor, the small Swiss town of Arbon looks tranquil and laid back.

The object of the dispute is the local brothel, located in the town’s historic center, just a stone’s throw away from the City Hall. Several residents who live in the brothel’s vicinity recently wrote a letter to the city officials, complaining about the sights and sounds emanating from the facility, and asking authorities to shut it down.

“Almost every day, the women stand naked by the windows,” the neighbors wrote, adding that “the ladies wait for their customers and start loud music as soon as they arrive."

But municipal officials responded that the brothel will be allowed to operate because of the valuable service it provides. “This establishment has a right to exist, as it fulfills the social need of the population,” authorities wrote in a letter to the complainants.

They added that the disturbances have a "neighborly character” and are accidental rather than intentional.

This response has sparked swift reactions in the local media. While some pointed out that a brothel shouldn’t be located in a residential area, others applauded the municipal decision. “These people watch their neighbors through the window and then complain about what they see?” reader Sem Meier commented in the Blick newspaper.  “They want to forbid whatever action doesn’t meet their moral standards,” he added.

Another reader, Peter Duck, proposed a compromise for a peaceful coexistence in the neighborhood, suggesting the brothel should “invite the neighbors over. Then nobody will complain.”

The municipality’s refusal to shut down the brothel reflects the liberal and pragmatic attitude the Swiss have toward sex workers. Prostitution is legal in this country of 8.5 million people, and regarded as a regular service industry that falls under the category of “economic freedom.”

The sex industry here is heavily regulated to prevent pimping, human trafficking and ties with criminal networks. Prostitutes must register with their city authorities, get regular health checks, pay income tax, make Social Security contributions, and generally comply with the, um, penal code.

In Arbon’s brothel, sex workers “are independent contractors who set their own prices,” its website says.

“There ‘s no rule that sex clubs must be located on the outskirts or in industrial zones,” Thomas Steccanella, spokesman for Arbon’s municipal authorities told USA TODAY.

A brothel has been in this downtown location “for over 30 years. Complaints have been very rare,” Steccanella added.

Mostly foreign women ply their trade in hundreds of brothels across Switzerland. They come here from countries where prostitution is illegal — mostly from South America, Eastern Europe, and EU nations.

In Geneva, sex workers have formed a union which liaises with city authorities to improve prostitutes’ work conditions and earning potential. In Zurich, taxpayer —sponsored drive-in “sex boxes” have provided a safe and discreet environment for sex workers.

And a few years ago, dozens of brothels in the city of Lugano made news when they started training prostitutes to use defibrillators after several clients suffered heart attacks.

Meanwhile, a resolution to Arbon’s tiff has just been found. The brothel’s manager said he is instructing his staff to be more discreet and promises to mask the building’s windows, so no offensive sights permeate the neighborhood.

Now local residents will be able to enjoy their town’s pretty scenery as far as a naked eye can see.

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