Thanks to Bri from Barcelona Street Scraps for the theme of this post.
Yesterday the Ajuntament (local council) of Barcelona launched its anti-prostitution drive. Prostitution is legal in Spain, but Barcelona made it illegal in April 2012.
Not that anyone can tell the difference.
The first time I walked into the Raval I remember the shock of suddenly finding myself in the midst of hooker alley (Nou de la Rambla between Carrer Nou de Sadurni and Carrer d’En Robador). Paris’ Pigale looked like a broadway musical compared this gritty corner of the Raval.
Yet now, the girls are just part of the street scape for residents, be it the suspicious Nigerian girls who scowl at me when I say hola, or the girl who wears tinsel around her thighs for Christmas or the wizened old 4 1/5 foot tall lady in cowboy boots. They all seem as much part of the barrio as the skateboarding hipsters (damn them and their coolness), the faintly lecherous and faintly disapproving Pakistani shop keepers and the walking inebriated.
However, the government didn’t go and build a nice big Filmoteca, exactly on hooker alley for the entertainment of the ladies or their punters. No siree, this is all part of the ‘esponjament (mopping up) Raval’ operation. A legacy of the city’s pre-olympic rush to wipe it’s nose and straighten it’s collar.
Enter operation ‘Anti prostitution’.
So, gentlemen take heed; According to the expatica website, under the new laws the client faces fines from 1,000 to 1,500 euros and the lady or tranny faces fines from 100 to 750 if caught. The difference in fines depends on your proximity to a school when the ‘soliciting’ takes place. Less than 200 feet from a school, and you have been a VERY bad boy! If you decide to save on the cost of a hotel room by doing it in the street like these douche bags, you get fined 3,000 Euros.
The prostitute can avoid her fine if she attends the government’s ‘stop being such a dirty whore’ course.
On April 26th this year prostitutes protested the criminalization of their trade. They call themselves the Prostitutas Indignadas, part of the 99%.
Criminalization? Sounds like another excuse for a fine if you ask me. The disingenuous answer to the question- How do we fill this gap in the government budget?
But at the same time, for every fantastic, hideously kinky Monica del Raval style prostitute proudly strutting her stuff out there, and every glamorous Bel De Jour style high class hooker doing it because it makes her lotsa money, there are ten doe eyed, coal black teenage beauties who look like this world never gave them a fucking break, not since the moment they first opened their baby eyes.
So while criminalization isn’t the answer, support is needed for sex slaves and women who want out. After all, hasn’t it been possible to protect people from enslavement in other professions like farming and garment production without making the entire profession illegal?
The Ajuntament has made encouraging noises in this respect.
They have increased funding for the Agency for a Comprehensive Approach to Sex Workers (ABITS) by 67%. The agency provides training resources to prostitutes wishing to find another job. With the new funding it is going to set up a special division for African women who need more intensive support.
Question is dear government, what help can an illegal immigrant prostitute access without fear of deportation?
All photographs by Joan Colom, La gente de Raval