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City trials 'drive-in sex boxes'

No car, no sex - that's the rule for an experiment Zurich is launching to make prostitution safer for women and less of a public nuisance.

Teak-coloured open wooden garages, dubbed "sex boxes" by the Swiss media, are now open for business for drive-in customers in the Altstetten area of Switzerland's largest city.

The several dozen sex workers who are expected to make it their new hub will stand along a short road in a small, circular park for clients to negotiate with.

The park was built in a former industrial area nestled between a rail yard and the fence along a major highway. The publicly-funded facilities - open all night and located away from the city centre - includes bathrooms, lockers, small cafe tables, a laundry and shower.

There are no video surveillance cameras, but the sex workers - who will need a permit and pay a small tax - will be provided with a panic button, and social workers trained to look after them will be available on-site.

Daniel Hartmann, a Zurich lawyer, said the move would mean more safety for the prostitutes, adding: "At least it's a certain kind of a shelter for them. They can do their business, and I respect them.

"They do a great job, and they have better working conditions ... They're not exposed to the bosses, to the pimps, in here."

On Saturday, several hundred residents, including many women and several journalists, flocked to the only "open house" that Zurich will offer to give the public a better idea of how their taxes are being used.

Voters in Zurich approved spending up to 2.4 million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) on the project last year as a way of relocating the sex traffic away from a busy area where it had become a public nuisance, as well as addressing concerns over safety due to lack of sanitation, aggressive men and associated drugs and violence.

The city, which only allows prostitution in certain areas, also plans to spend 700,000 francs (£480,000) a year to keep the sex boxes running.

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