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Three African women are ready to go home. More than 50 Spanish cities have specific municipal rules to curb prostitution. Some punish the prostitute and the client, others only the client. The regulations aim to protect women, keep residents happy and clean up the streets but, according to a new report by the Autonomous University of Barcelona UAB , they end up hurting the women who are most vulnerable: The rules are supposedly an instrument against trafficking but it is these women who are most affected by them.
This is the first time a report has looked at the effects of these regulations, some of which were approved more than a decade ago. This conclusion was backed up by 32 interviews with female prostitutes, organizations that work with them, politicians, experts and police officers. In Spain, prostitution is unregulated. The Socialist Party PSOE government, which supports the abolitionist model, has promised to introduce a law against trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Prostitutes in Seville have access to services like shelters, social work centers and psychological help. There were 10 times more women fined than clients in Lleida and five times more in La Jonquera Organizations interviewed in the study argued that women in Madrid were also being persecuted by the laws. The Interior Ministry however does not separate data on fines issued under the gag law. In Seville, where rules target clients and consider women as victims of gender violence, fines had been issued to date.
The report argues the sanctions increase the stigmatization of female prostitutes, forcing them from the city center to the outskirts where it is less safe. The city supports the abolitionist model, meaning prostitution is not considered work and prostitutes are seen as victims of gender violence. Like victims of domestic abuse, prostitutes in the city have access to services like shelters, social work centers and psychological help.
Barcelona began to fine clients and prostitutes in , but it stopped issuing fines to women in When Ada Colau was named mayor of the Catalan capital, the city changed its focus to providing women with social assistance.