by Beatriz Campos Mansilla (@beatrzcm)
It is very difficult to set the number of prostituted women in Spain, including those trafficke. However, different reports by organizations which assist these women and Spanish authorities said that around 300,000 women are being prostituted in Spain. This is an 18,000 million € per year business which is stimulated by the 6% of the Spanish-male population, although some reports raise these percentage up to 39% of the Spanish men who admitted having paid for a prostituted woman. There are also lots of men who come from other countries with tourism packages including sexual exploitation or with the only purpose of going to brothels.
Despite the fact that there has been a small increase of the number of Spanish women who are returning or entering prostitution because of the economic downturn in the country, the majority are from other countries. It is estimated that 90% of the prostituted women in Spain are foreigners and they are also victims of trafficking. The 1,641 victims of trafficking identified by the Spanish police in 2010 were predominantly from Romania, Paraguay, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. But trafficked women are also from other Latin American countries, Eastern European countries, African countries and more recently from China, Japan and Korea.
Prostitution hasn’t got a legal status in Spain. There is not a legal framework or public policy that can be applied in the whole country. There is only one chapter in the Criminal Code referred to offences related to prostitution and corruption of minors. Those who cause or facilitate sexual exploitation or pornography of minors or those who force adults to sexual exploitation can be charged with prison.
On the other hand, advertisements of prostitution in newspapers (even in the most reputable and mainstream ones) are allowed and it is almost impossible for Governments to stop it because this is one of the most important sources of income for newspapers in Spain.
Public policies regarding prostitution remain uneven. As there is not a legal frame about prostitution and central, regional and local authorities have different responsibilities and ideologies about this problem, there is not a single approach. However, there are two main ways of action. One of them focuses on trafficking but does not act firmly on other kinds of prostitution. The other one focuses on trafficking and considers some punishment within the morality of the prohibitionist framework. The paradigm of these measures can be found in Catalonia, where prostitutors and prostituted women are being fined if they are found on the roads, with the excuse of the ‘distractions’ that can be lead to traffic accidents. There is not a political commitment with a deep understanding, implementation and evaluation of complex frameworks such as the abolitionist or the regulationist ones.
Spain is one of the main countries of transit and destination for women trafficked for sexual exploitation purposes in Europe. Most of women end or stay for a while in brothels, where they are exploited and threatened to pay large amounts of money they can only get by undergoing sexual exploitation.
Trafficking of persons has a special paragraph in the Criminal Code following a reform passed in 2010. People who facilitate trafficking of persons face from eight to ten years of prison. Also since this reform, women who are identified as victims have thirty days to decide about their collaboration with police. According to data, 90% of these identified women rejected the protection of police during 2011. They are terrified by threats from mafias, they fear deportation to their countries, they are not explained about their rights or they find themselves not as much as protected as they need. If they do not cooperate and they are not identified as victims of violence against women, they usually fall into the Immigration Law.
There should be a deeper debate in Spain about what kind of policy framework should be used to tackle prostitution, so that the design and implementation of policies in the whole country and by different authorities (central, regional and local) is coherent. There is also a need for more prosecution of trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes and to identify trafficked women within the problem of violence against women rather than the immigration phenomenon.