Brothels start to close in Spain to cut Covid-19 risk

All brothels in the Castilla La Mancha region will shut down this Sunday, as it become first Spanish region to bring in a blanket ban to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Brothels start to close in Spain to cut Covid-19 risk
Paradise sex club, was the largest brothel in Europe when it opened in Jonquera, north-eastern Spain, in 2010. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP
The decision was made last week after seven women and five men tested positive for coronavirus at a brothel in the town of Alcázar de San Juan. 
The forced closures in the region, which hosts the highest number of brothels in Spain, came as Spain's  equality minister, Irene Montero, wrote to the country's 17 regional governments on Thursday, asking them to find ways to shut down the hundreds of brothels that remain open for business. 
In her letter, Montero said that “a potential increase of coronavirus positives would be difficult to track” at the brothels and could endanger the health and rights of women working there. 
Prostitution was decriminalised in Spain in 1995, but pimping remains illegal. This means that while it is legal to own an establishment where prostitution takes place, the owner cannot employ prostitutes or otherwise derive financial gain from their work. 
Most brothels operate with hotel or bar licenses, allowing some to remain open even as Spain's authorities have closed pubs and nightlife. 
Most of the women who work in them are also immigrants and they are often victims of people traffickers- In her letter, Montero asked local authorities to “seek dignified alternatives” for them. 
The United Left party in Castilla La Mancha, which has an abolitionist stance on prostitution, welcomed the decision. 
“How many women forced into prostitution are being obliged to put their health at risk and how many of Castilla-La Mancha’s positive cases have been caused by whoremongers?” the party wrote on social media. 
Many regions in Spain are already taking extra efforts to clamp down on the sex industry, with a brothel in Alicante closed at the end of last month after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.  
Ximo Puig, President of the Valencian Government, which has also long wanted to outlaw prostitution, on Friday said he wanted to take actions that “go far beyond the pandemic”, and bring in legislative change to “put an end to prostitution,”  because prostitution involves “slavery”.

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Spain’s top court reinstates first sex workers’ union

Spanish sex workers have the right to form their own union, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, overturning an earlier court decision ordering the dissolution of Spain's first such labour organisation.

Spain's top court reinstates first sex workers' union
Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Known as OTRAS (or “the Sex Workers’ Organisation”), the union was discretely set up in August 2018 but was closed three months later by order of the National Court following an appeal by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

But following an appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of OTRAS, saying that its statutes, which had triggered the initial legal challenge, were “in line with the law” and that sex workers “have the fundamental right to freedom of association and the right to form a union”.

In its November 2018 ruling, the National Court had argued that allowing the union to exist amounted to “recognising the act of procurement as lawful”.


Contacted by AFP, the union did not wish to comment.

When it was founded, OTRAS received the green light from the labour ministry and its statutes were publicly registered in the official gazette the day before the government went into a summer recess.

But three weeks later, the government — which portrays itself as “feminist and in favour of the abolition of prostitution” according to Sanchez’s Twitter feed at the time — started legal moves against it.

In Spain, prostitution is neither legal nor illegal but it is tolerated.

Although it is not recognised as employment, there is a large number of licensed brothels throughout the country.