Taking a page from other European countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, some prostitutes in the Spanish island of Ibiza have formed a completely legal worker’s union.
According to reports, 11 women have registered as part of the union, known as the Sealeer Cooperative, and will now be recognized as tax-paying, working members of society who get paid to have sex.
"We are pioneers," said Maria Josí López, who herself is not a sex worker but did register as a member so she could be a voluntary representative for the group. "We are the first cooperative in Spain that can give legal cover to the girls."
"Just as they regulate the hotels and restaurants to make sure all the workers are registered, they should also see that the girls are comfortable and legalized, said López.
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Prostitution isn’t illegal in Spain, but until now, it has not been regulated, so workers say they are trying to do this so that women can be protected from exploitation and unsafe situations.
“[The union] is a way to give the women independence from the gangs of pimps, for women who choose to exercise this profession” said judge, former employment lawyer, and advisor for the Sealeer Cooperative Gloria Poyatos. “I think that something is changing. A debate in society is beginning on whether or not to regulate prostitution.”
Others, however, disagree with a union formation and regulation of prostitution. Ignacio Arsuaga, president of conservative group HazteOir, says that regulation will not do anything to stop people from exploiting women for sex.
“In this case we are talking about a minority of prostitutes with supposed liberty, but in reality in most cases they do not have real freedom to choose,” said Arsuaga to news agency AFP. “Regulating prostitution is harmful for victims who are exploited, for sexual slaves.”