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An angry voice blared from a megaphone at the back of the college lecture hall even before the guest speakers — sex workers — had said a word.
After about 30 minutes, the protesters exited the lecture hall, leaving the sex workers shaken but not deterred. At times, students or other observers call the group members pimps — or lobbyists. Many consider them anti-feminist. The confrontation in Barcelona in mid-November illustrated the deep divisions among Spanish feminists over prostitution — between those who view sex work as fundamentally exploitative and those who see it as a legitimate profession.
A movement of women known as abolicionistas — abolitionists — has gained traction in recent years by likening prostitution to slavery. Within Europe, Spain operates somewhere between places such as Sweden, where the purchase of sex is illegal, and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal and regulated. The sex workers group appealed. As it awaits a decision, its members are poring over union manuals and legal texts to fine-tune their arguments, giving talks and hosting debates around the country.
Among their key issues are the right to sick leave when working with third parties such as clubs, maternity leave and a standard workweek of about 40 hours. Some studies estimate Spain has anywhere between 45, and , prostitutes. In , the Interior Ministry identified victims of sex trafficking through workplace inspections and raids in which women were liberated and given assistance by government and nongovernmental agencies.
How many women are practicing prostitution? How many clubs are there, and in what situation are these women? How many trafficking victims are there? After Barcelona began enforcing its ordinance in , a series of police raids cleared many streets and flats of prostitutes. Many streets are now devoid of prostitutes. Sex workers can cultivate clients online, through social media or agencies. The anarchist, anti-capitalist collective formed more than a decade ago in response to the public safety ordinance.