A liberal law and the lure of ready cash have seen teenage girls in Switzerland turning to prostitution to be able to afford expensive designer goods. “Label sex”, as it has been dubbed, is a stronger temptation for Swiss girls than for some others, because in their country prostitution is legal and the age of sexual consent is 16. The Swiss Child Protection Association is calling for this legal loophole to be closed by establishing a legal age for prostitution — 18, as it is in France and Italy, while it is 21 in Germany. Otherwise, they say, Switzerland will become “a paradise for tourists seeking teenage sex”.
Girls wanting “pocket money” for designer dresses or expensive accessories advertise online or visit upmarket clubs. One Zurich nightclub even organised a theme event including 16-year-old guests. Online demand for young prostitutes is high and advertisements emphasise the fact that 16- and 17-year-olds are available. Child advocates point out that young girls are vulnerable to abuse in a situation they do not want to talk about at home; that the quick money makes education, first jobs and other aspects of normal teenage life less attractive; and that “selling your body stays with you your entire life”.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and associated protocols, which Switzerland has signed, foresee the protection of children from sexual exploitation until the age of 18. A 2007 Council of Europe convention deals with the issue of prostitution among younger girls, but ratification by the Swiss government will take time. According to one source, prostitution was legalised in Switzerland in 1942, and since 1973 has fallen under Article 27 of the Constitution which guarantees “economic freedom … particularly the freedom to choose one's profession, and to enjoy free access to and free exercise of private economic activity". ~ swissinfo.ch, Oct 28