Switzerland's Sixteen-Year-Old Prostitute Problem

Op-Ed: Switzerland is the only European country where girls are allowed to work as prostitutes beginning at age 16. That’s a reasonable age of sexual consent. But for sex workers, Switzerland lives in sin until it raises the minimum age for prostitution t

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but only after the age of 18 (facemepls)
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but only after the age of 18 (facemepls)
Chantal Galladé*

ZURICH -- About a year ago, I drove with a Zurich police patrol through the red light district to try and get a better picture of the scene. I'm still haunted by the memories of the very young girls. They could hardly speak a word of German and they were selling their bodies. Their pimps stood not far away, waiting to take the money they earned.

Switzerland is the only European country where 16-year-olds are allowed to prostitute themselves. This is repugnant and incomprehensible. It makes Switzerland a destination for sex tourists with a penchant for children. Some Swiss "escort agencies' highlight the fact that they offer underage girls.

That's why, together with another member of parliament, Luc Barthassat, we're pushing not only for the minimum age for prostitutes to be changed to 18, but for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Although Switzerland is a signatory to the convention, we have yet to adjust our laws.

"Choosing" to enter the sex trade

The Swiss Federal Council is now working on this. Reactions have been many and varied – much outrage, but also some supporters of the status quo. The latter point out that the overall sexual age of consent in Switzerland is 16. It makes sense, therefore, that prostitutes can also be 16, they argue.

But there is a difference between engaging in sex and selling one's body. Sex is important for healthy physical and psychological development. Prostitution damages body and soul and hinders healthy development. It's also a job – and labor laws often make special provisions to protect young people.

Another argument is that girls choose to go into prostitution and should, therefore, be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to start at 16 or 17. But puberty is a phase of life marked by feelings of personal insecurity and high vulnerability to outside pressures. What's more, girls may have a completely erroneous idea of what prostitution is all about, or be curious about it without being able to gauge the consequences on their own life.

On top of all that, in many cases teenagers go into prostitution because they desperately need the money. That's hardly a situation conducive to making "free choices."

Read the original story in German

Photo - facemepls

* Chantal Galladé is a teacher and Socialist member of the Swiss parliament

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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