Press photographs of prostitutes plying their trade right out on the street have reignited a debate about the practice in Spain, where it has seen rapid growth over the past 15 years.
Traditionally perceived as relatively marginal, prostitution is increasingly seen as “normal,” with ever younger men preferring to pay for sex rather than taking the trouble of trying to pick up girls.
Prostitution is again making headlines after the daily newspaper El Pais published pictures of prostitutes and their clients having sex on the street at night in a Barcelona tourist neighborhood.
Barcelona had become increasingly lax in applying a 2006 municipal ordinance that stipulated fines of up to 750 euros (US$1,050) for sex workers or their clients, critics complain. The ordinance was aimed at eradicating such practices from central districts.
Associations representing local residents or the prostitutes themselves urged a legalization of the trade, describing it as the only way to guarantee prostitutes adequate working conditions.
The city, however, only deployed more police to chase the sex workers off the streets in the Raval neighborhood.
The debate revealed a problem affecting, not just Barcelona, but all of Spain, where — like in many other European countries — the authorities have been unable to choose between a Swedish-style ban and a Dutch-style legalization of prostitution.
The practice has thus been left in legal limbo, which makes it more difficult for police to pursue criminals trafficking in prostitutes, leaving thousands of women at the mercy of pimps coercing them into the trade.
The influx of immigrants has led to the growth of prostitution in Spain, where up to 300,000 women are estimated to be selling sex in flats, hostels, streets, parks or at around 2,500 “clubs” functioning as brothels.
One of the world’s most lucrative criminal trades moves an estimated 18 billion euros in Spain annually.
Around 90 percent of the sex workers are migrants from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania or Russia.
There is abundant judicial evidence that many of the women have been lured to Spain with false promises and forced into prostitution with threats, beatings, rape and even outright torture.
“Sexual exploitation rings are very cruel, the roughest I have seen in my career,” police officer Carlos Igual said.
However, prostitution is not technically illegal, and police can only act in cases in which prostitutes report their pimps for coercion. That is something that the women, who may be in the country illegally and may not even speak Spanish, are often afraid of doing.
Yet prostitution has also not been clearly defined as a legal activity, preventing police from inspecting brothels to make sure that sex workers are adequately treated.
It is mainly on a local level that authorities have taken sporadic action such as information campaigns, closing premises or placing video cameras in neighborhoods to dissuade potential clients.
Nearly 30 percent of Spanish men admit to having bought sex, according to the National Statistics Institute and may downplay reports of violence or oppression.
“They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t like it,” a Madrid taxi driver commented.
The abundant offer of cheap women with a variety of exotic looks has made many young men regard prostitution as a normal leisure activity, with the average age of the clients dropping to around 30, El Pais quoted psychologists and other researchers as saying.
The growth of prostitution reflects “a culture of immediacy, the will to get casual sex fast and without effort,” the daily wrote.
Some experts see the increase of prostitution as a new form of oppression against women, but the issue is made more complicated by the fact that some prostitutes do enter the trade voluntarily.
“I could be cleaning stairs, but now I earn 2,500 euros a month,” one sex worker said in the southern town of El Ejido.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory