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European experiments with sex drive-ins, ‘love parks’

AFP-JIJI

The Swiss city of Zurich is to open a sex drive-in on Monday. Similar initiatives exist in Germany and Italy, while Belgium and the Netherlands have come up with a different approach. Here are some examples.

Germany: The cathedral city of Cologne established a drive-in brothel in October 2001 with eight rooms, called “sex huts” or “performance boxes,” into which motorists drive with prostitutes, as if in a garage or gas station.

The site, which served as a model for Zurich, is equipped with an alarm button and toilet facilities. Police keep watch, and the Catholic Women’s Welfare Service provides care services for the several dozen prostitutes who work there. Sabine Reichert of the women’s service has been quoted by German media as saying the system led to a “considerable decline in violent acts against the women.”

Dortmund, also in western Germany, installed “prostitute boxes” a few months before Cologne with the same aim of protecting sex workers and providing social and medical services. Twenty boxes operated for several years, but in 2007 they became a nexus of criminal gangs from Eastern Europe and were closed in April 2011. Bonn installed six wood-walled spaces in January 2011 in a parking lot near the city. Two dozen prostitutes work there on a regular basis.

Italy: Italy has several sex drive-ins, which are used by prostitutes and clients as well as by young couples who are still living at home.

Prostitution is legal in Italy, but solicitation and brothels are not, so while the sites are tolerated, they have sparked opposition from local residents and the Catholic Church.

In Pozzuoli, near Naples, two entrepreneurs opened a “Love Park” in May with 32 places for cars separated by tarpaulin curtains for privacy. The facility in a park was shut down by local authorities, re-opened and has now been closed again. It charged a minimum fee of €5 ($6.70) for two hours, plus €1.5 for each additional hour.

Belgium: In Belgium, where prostitution is illegal but tolerated, the eastern city of Seraing wants to build a pedestrian-only “eros center” that would cover 2,000 sq. meters to provide prostitutes with 34 rooms and a clean and safe environment. The design includes a police locale and a 4,000-sq.-meter parking lot, which in theory would be off-limits for sex.

Netherlands: In Holland, where “window” prostitution has been legal since 2000, streetwalking “tipplezones” are tolerated in five towns, although Amsterdam closed such a site in late 2003.

Others have also shut down, often due to problems stemming from the use of hard drugs such as heroin. In the central city of Utrecht, almost 100 so-called sex houseboats were recently closed, with the city’s mayor citing concerns over human trafficking. In Groningen and Heerlen, they are supervised and provide access to legal aid and free contraceptives, and in some cases walled drive-through corridors have been set up for more discretion.