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 neighbourhood.
Barcelona had become increasingly lax in applying a 2006 municipal ordinance which stipulated fines of up to 750 euros (1,050 dollars) for sex workers or their clients, critics complain.
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 neighbourhood.
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. Around 90% of the sex workers are
migrants from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania or Russia.
Nearly 30% of Spanish men admit to having bought sex, according to the National Statistics Institute. 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 30years, 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.
One hundred police officers took part Saturday in an anti-prostitution operation in downtown Barcelona that ended with 16 arrests along the landmark thoroughfare of Las Ramblas in the Catalan capital.
Besides the 16 people arrested, another 78 were identified. Those taken into custody were two Nigerian prostitutes, two Brazilian transvestites and another 12 foreign citizens who are in Spain illegally, police officials said.
Taking part in the operation were agents of Spain's National Police, the regional Catalan police and the Barcelona municipal force. This police macro-operation is the first in which the three police forces have worked together and comes after a fierce
controversy sparked by the publication at the beginning of this week of prostitutes photographed having sex in the middle of downtown Barcelona.
The interior ministry of the regional government of Catalonia promised to maintain until the end of autumn the police reinforcements that in recent days have succeeded in driving prostitutes out of Las Ramblas, one of the best-known areas.
After days of heavy dispute both amongst Barcelona's citizens, its politicians as well as Spanish and international media, the verdict appears to be that Barcelona's prostitutes will soon be able to legally practice their profession in commercial
premises and apartments.
The big debate was stirred up last week, after El Pais published photos of tourists having sex with prostitutes in the streets of Barcelona and around the famous La Boqueria market at night. The photos even led Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero to join the discussion, demanding Barcelona to clear out its prostitutes.
The councilor of Citutat Vella, Itziar González, expressed the city council's intention of modifying the urban plan to grant licenses of bars with privées in order to allow sexual practices. The legal changes would be finalized this
month and come into effect towards the beginning of 2010. The government hopes to rid Barcelona's streets of prostitution with the new measure.
The measure has been very well received by prostitutes, business owners as well as neighbourhood associations, nevertheless the opposition lead by CiU party leader Xavier Trias, sees the measure as an easy way out and cowardly as well as a step
back from the regeneration of the area.
A women's nutter group has welcomed a decision by Spain's parliament to reject a move that would have made prostitution legal.
Parliament on Tuesday voted 329-5 against a proposal to recognize prostitution as a profession.
The Federation of Progressive Women welcomed the vote, describing prostitution as a form of violence and slavery which was being supported and promoted by many people.
The Catalan republican party ERC, which tabled the proposal, said it would prefer prostitution not to exist, but that it was better to grant prostitutes legal rights than to leave them at the mercy of pimps.
Parliament also rejected calls for a ban on newspaper ads on prostitution, saying it was preferable for the media voluntarily to stop advertising the sex trade.
A large majority of people in Spain back a proposal that would make prostitution a regular occupation, according to a poll by Instituto Noxa published in La Vanguardia. 76% of respondents support regularizing prostitution, while 17% oppose it.
While prostitution in Spain is not illegal, owning or running a brothel has been illegal since 1956.
The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)—a Catalan nationalist party—is proposing that prostitution be regularized across Spain, in order to offer protection to voluntary sex workers and combat illicit human trafficking organizations. The ERC has also put
forward a bill that would ban all ads selling prostitution in print publications. ERC lawmaker Joan Tardà has called the ads disgusting and said that they denigrate women.
Last month, Tardà declared: Regulating is the only way to guarantee social and labour rights to the people that practice it [prostitution], bring them back from the fringes....It will also make it easier to track crime associated with it.
With a new by-law which comes into force next month, Granada becomes the first town in Andalucía to introduce fines for street prostitution.
Ondara on the Costa Blanca has now followed their example and will be voting at a council meeting next week on its own by-law with fines for anyone who offers, solicits, negotiates or accepts, directly or indirectly, sexual services on the public way
The fines range from 80 up to 500 €, but sexual relations taking place in the street will be considered a very serious offence and could be fined by as much as 2,000 €.
The local Town Hall told El Mundo newspaper that the measure will only be applied to those who re-offend knowing that the ban is in place, adding that the municipal social services department is on hand to help and advise any prostitutes who work locally
who want to give up their profession.
The southern Spanish city of Granada has started imposing fines on street prostitutes and their clients in a rare crackdown on a profession that lies in legal limbo.
City councilor Eduardo Moral says the new municipal order that went into effect Tuesday imposes fines of up to $4,500 for soliciting or offering sex within 200 meters (660 feet) of a school, residential area, shopping center or business complex.
Outside that limit, the fine can be as much as $1,100.
The Valencian Federation of Municipalities and Provinces has introduced a law making sex on the street punishable by a fine of 3,000
euros. The new framework also outlaws prostitution, begging and any other activity that disturbs the tranquillity of neighbours . Also included for the first time is legislation that aims to control the behaviour of club doormen.
The law, which will apply everywhere within the City of Valencia, provides for penalties of up to 3,000 euros for having sex in a car within the city or 400 euros for people who buy pirated DVDs and CDs in the street.
The legislation has been unanimously approved by the council representatives.
The law seeks to end prostitution in the street and is aimed equally at prostitutes and their clients. For a first offence clients and prostitutes face penalties of between 1,500 and 3,000 euros. If sex workers continue to offend they will suffer
imprisonment. The document warns that any person who has sexual intercourse in a vehicle in the street will also be fined up to 3,000 euros.
The Spanish government has put itself on collision course with the national press with the announcement that it wants to ban adverts offering
sexual services from their classified sections.
The adverts, which fill at least a page in most of Spain's dailies, are worth €40m (£34m) a year to the newspaper industry.
President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero made the announcement during this week's state of the nation speech, claiming it was part of a strategy to fight the people trafficking and sexual exploitation: As long as these advertisements exist,
they contribute to the idea of this activity as normal .
If the ads are banned, newspapers will want to be compensated and, worryingly for Zapatero, El País, a staunch supporter of his socialist party, is the paper that earns the most from this form of advertising. With its left-liberal sensibilities
and readership profile, El País is the Spanish paper that most resembles the Guardian, and yet it earns €5m a year from advertising prostitution.
Yolanda Besteiro of the 'Progressive' Women's Federation was scathing about what she regards as the newspaper's hypocrisy: No media outlet can proclaim itself a defender of human rights when it publishes this kind of advertising, which makes them directly
complicit in this type of slavery .
The most openly religious daily, ABC, also runs the ads. El Publíco is the only national that does not run them as a matter of policy. Spain is the only European country where the quality press carries adverts for sex. Prostitution is big
business in Spain, worth an estimated €18bn a year.
The Paradise night club, touted as the largest brothel in Europe, has opened for business after a Spanish town
failed to stop it in the courts.
Police patrolled the roads outside the Spanish town of La Jonquera and 15 security guards kept watch as the opening night crowd filtered in on Thursday.
I give the girls breakfast, lunch and dinner and they get to keep whatever they make. Do you call that exploitation? a Paradise manager told reporters as a group of middle-aged French men left their cars for the club, which looks like a disco that
overdosed on neon. The club, which measures 2,700 square metres and boasts 80 rooms with rates of €120 (£107) per hour, is one of 11 so-called macro-brothels in this Catalan region of Gerona, near the Costa Brava.
Roughly 1,800 prostitutes reportedly sell their services there [Other reports suggest a more believable 180]. And many local restaurant owners and other residents are pleased with the business they attract. Except for a
handful of local priests, few Spaniards have attempted to throw cold water on this industry.
But the mayor of La Jonquera, Jordi Cabezas, refused to give the club an operating licence, claiming that a police report warned the brothel could cause security and public order problems. The club owner, identified as Jose Moreno in the Spanish
press, had been arrested in September, along with 40 other people, in connection with an alleged sex trade trafficking ring. He was charged and released pending trial.
Moreno has denied involvement with trafficking rings. I run three places. Who would think that I would get involved in something like that? It doesn't make sense, he told El Pais newspaper. Moreno took the town to court and won. In February, the
Supreme Court of Catalonia ruled that police speculation was not sufficient grounds to dampen the libido of paying customers. The ruling was not surprising in Spain, a traditionally Catholic country that has long tolerated prostitution.
Moreno, denies he is exploiting women: They are adults, they know what they are here for, and that's all that I ask of them .
The women refused to comment to the horde of reporters at the opening. We come to Spain for sex, said one of the men: In France, this is illegal. The girls are very pretty, another man said with a nervous giggle.
Sex workers on the street outside a town northern Spain have been ordered to wear reflective vests
supposedly to make them visible to passing traffic and reduce the risk of accidents.
Women touting for customers on a rural highway outside Els Alamus near Lleida in Catalonia have been told to don the yellow fluorescent bibs or pay fines of 40 euros (£36) under road traffic laws.
Police claim the sex workers on the LL-11 road are not being specifically targeted because of what they do but because they posed a danger to drivers.
The prostitutes are in breach of 2004 law which states pedestrians on major highways and hard shoulders must wear the high visibility garments.
The move follows recent legislation introduced by Els Alamus town hall to ban prostitutes from offering sex for sale in public urban areas. The mayor Josep Maria Bea has been accused of mounting a campaign to drive the sex workers out of the area.
Prostitution is so popular (and socially accepted) in Spain that a United Nations study reports that 39 per cent of all Spanish men have used a prostitute's services at least once. A Spanish Health Ministry survey in 2009 put the
percentage of one-time prostitute users at 32 per cent: lower than the UN figure, perhaps, but far higher than the 14 per cent in liberal-minded Holland, or in Britain, where the figure is reported to oscillate between 5 and 10 per cent. And that was
just those men willing to admit it.
To meet this vast demand, an estimated 300,000 prostitutes are working in Spain – everywhere from clubs in town centres to industrial estates, to lonely country roads to roadside bars, the last often recognisable by gigantic
neon signs of champagne bottles or shapely females, flashing away in the darkness. And recently, on the French border, Club Paradise opened with 180 sex workers, making it the biggest brothel in Europe.
Sex workers in Malaga have been given an area where they can ply their trade without police interference. The plot of land, which is in
the same area of the Guadalhorce Industrial Estate in Malaga where they currently work, does not breach municipal regulations. Malaga City Hall is improving the plot by fixing up access routes and installing bins, so everything points to a definitive
solution for the city's working girls.
A local law passed six months ago made it illegal for them to carry out their activities within 200 metres from schools, homes or businesses. In the months following the new laws, many prostitutes complained they were being persecuted by police and
given no alternatives .
Malaga City hall has also approved a programme to improve the conditions of women working in the sex trade, with a budget of EUR350,000.
Meanwhile, on the nearby Azucarera Industrial Estate, an establishment advertised as the Sala Blue Hotel, which according to neighbours is a brothel, was prevented from opening by police. Thirty women were in the premises at the time. It planned
to open with porn actress Maria Lapiedra as the star of the inauguration. The reason cited for the closure was a minor planning issue.
The sex workers of Barcelona organized a protest action against a ban on street prostitution in Barcelona.
The women paraded through the streets with colorful masks and posters expressing their discontent against the authorities of Barcelona.
More than 450 women chanted We are prostitutes and we have rights , EuroMag reports.
They reminded the authorities that they also are members of the society and have rights like the others, but their rights are being violated. The participants of demonstration ended at City Hall where they read their declaration.
Spanish authorities seem to be taking a pragmatic approach to trying to get the economy moving. The Spanish parliament is planning to life the long standing ban on advertising sexual services.
In a country in which prostitution is legal, the bill will allow brothels, escort agencies and prostitutes to advertise online and in classified adverts in the print media. There are estimated to be between 200,000 and 400,000 prostitutes operating in
These are mostly foreign women from an assortment of countries -Nigeria, Eastern Europe and South America topping the list. Many customers are sex tourists, in the main crossing nearby borders although Spaniards also avail themselves of those touting the world's oldest profession
. In a United Nations report 39% of Spanish men admitted to having visited a sex worker at least once.
There have been calls for prostitution to be outlawed in Spain but many women's groups believe that such a move would force it underground meaning that fewer trafficked women would be able to seek help.
The Spanish city of Barcelona will fine the customers of streetwalkers up to 1500 euros with lesser penalties for sex workers city authorities said.
The city will fine clients and people helping or promoting prostitution in the street when a new bylaw comes into force on Friday, the city hall said in a statement.
The prostitutes will face fines between 100 and 300 euros and their clients 1,000 to 1,200 euros. This rises to 750 euros for a prostitute and 1,500 for a client if soliciting takes place less than 200 metres from a school.
Sex workers will have the chance to cancel their fine if they attend social courses to get out of prostitution.
Prostitution is not illegal nationwide in Spain but was banned in Barcelona in 2006. That ban has not curbed it in Spain's second-biggest city and the new bylaw toughens the conditions, particularly the fines for customers.
A Spanish school offering a professional course in prostitution which it says guarantees a job offer on graduation, has survived its first legal challenge to be closed down.
For EUR100, students are taught the history of the world's oldest profession, how to use erotic toys and the most popular positions contained within the Kama Sutra.
The school began advertising the course in May, but within weeks the Valencian regional government filed a case with prosecutors, alleging that the school promoted prostitution, which is illegal in Spain.
But now prosecutors have said that there was not any evidence that a criminal offence had been committed because advertisements for students did not promote prostitution, constitute fraud and were not aimed at minors, reported The Times.
The venture has attracted the inevitable nutter flak but the school says it will make the trade safer. It will also ensure budding sex-workers will not fall foul of the law, with in depth descriptions of the industry's laws and how to work around them.
Esther Lopez Barcelo, a United Left MP in Valencia, said the party was considering appealing the ruling.
Prostitution is on the rise in Spain and both the average age of clients and prices are falling.
Campaigners have claimed an increase of between 5 and 10% for streetwalkers . Both the associations and the police say that there are at least 37,000 sex workers in Spain (a figure that does not take into account escorts or women and students who
sell sex on a non-regular basis).
Spaniards are a minority within the whole and account for only 12%. Most of the sex workers are from Latin American (42%, mostly Brazilians), from Eastern Europe (28%), Africa (15%) and Asia (5%).
The crisis has had an effect on the prices. The associations say that sexual services performed for between 30 and 50 euros over the past few years are now regularly had for between 15 and 20 euros.
There are over 1,200 sex workers in the capital, and two years ago the Madrid city council brought in heavy fines for prostitutes trying to get clients. The measures has not had an effect, however, as it is difficult to catch them in the act.
Sex workers in Spain will demonstrate in central Madrid against a plan to fine street walkers and their customers.
The sex workers' rights group Hetaira said it would rally on Saturday fearing that the plans will force them to work in dangerous conditions. The demonstration will take place at the foot of Calle Montera, a street next to Madrid's central
Puerta del Sol square where prostitutes habitually stand waiting for customers.
Madrid city hall has drawn up proposals to fine those who pick up prostitutes in the street, while the national government plans to fine those offering or soliciting sex near schools or other children's areas.
The Madrid proposals would fine a person caught soliciting sex in public up to 750 euros, or up to 3,000 euros if it is done near schools or shopping centres.
Around 150 sex workers demonstrated on Saturday 15th Feb 2014 in Madrid, protesting against the criminalisation of prostitution and against the city government's Civil Space Ordnance and the Interior Ministry's proposed Law of Civil Safety.
Under the slogan, No to persecution, bargaining space now! the prostitutes marched and called for a space to work in peace, without disturbing and without being disturbed in the city, according to Karolina Hernandez, spokesperson
for the Hetaira Collective and sex worker.
She condemned the new state and municipal regulations that damage prostitutes' working conditions. They also called for the Commission to meet with the organisation:
We'd like the local government to meet us, they talk about us a lot, all the world seems to know all about prostitution but very rarely do they talk to the people involved and one of those is us.
In reference to the local government campaign against sex workers' clients, Hernandez says:
I work freely in the streets, I have decided to do this on my own terms. I and many companions have freely decided to do this work. When campaigns punish our clients, this also affects me. It's absurd to say that it's in my favour, it's
completely the opposite, it worsens my working conditions and my ability to negotiate with the client.
A judge ruled in a Barcelona court that sex workers should be given contracts by brothel owners, who would pay
social security contributions on their behalf. The civil court decision was made after a massage parlour offering sex services in the city was raided by labour inspectors. The judge ruled that management violated the women's rights and the firm, called
Xcenter, would have to pay backdated national insurance payments for the prostitutes from 2012.
The owner argued that the workers were autonomous and not officially employed, however authorities stated that as there was a employer and employee working relationship, it constitutes a contract so social security payments should be made. The court has
therefore ruled that prostitutes should be given the security of benefits, healthcare, pensions and unemployment payments to help safeguard them from being exploited.
Prostitution has been decriminalised in the country since 1995, however sex workers were not deemed to have had jobs and were not entitled to labour rights.
The decision by the court in Barcelona is not yet final, as it can be appealed to the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia.
Sex workers in Catalonia have created Spain's first formal lobby group for the profession, with the aim of encouraging candidates in the upcoming municipal
and regional elections to back them in their push to regulate the sector. Montse Neira, one of the founding members of the Assembly of Sex Work Pro-rights Activists of Catalonia explained:
We are the most stigmatised and criminalised group of women in society. From now on, nobody else is going to speak for us.
The lobby group includes sex workers as well as others who work closely with them, such as lawyers and advocates. Another member, Paula Vip said:
The violence we face doesn't come from our clients, but from the institutions that govern based on the interest of a moral minority. From now on, we prostitutes will be organised, convinced, ready to fight and ready for war.
The decision to form a lobby group comes after a pioneering ruling in February by a Spanish judge. In a judgment hailed by many sex workers as a crucial first step towards recognising the rights of those in the profession, the judge said that three women
in a Barcelona brothel had a right to healthcare and benefits contributions from their employer.