Arbon’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.”
With its charming centuries-old buildings and a picturesque harbor, the small Swiss town of Arbon looks tranquil and laid back.
But as the local newspaper Thurgauer Zeitungreported recently, a local business is disturbing the peace of a handful of residents in this scenic lakeside community of 14,444 people.
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.”