Sunday, April 29, 2012

Working Girls

A few years ago, long before we lived here, we were driving through Andalucia desperately searching for a roadside hotel. It was growing dark. We'd driven hundreds of kilometres. We were getting desperate. Then we saw a bright neon sign that read "Club - Hotel". We'd often been surprised at the location of the Clubs in Spain, we presumed they were discos kept, thoughtfully, well out of the town centres so as not to bother the non clubbers. This hotel was one of those - miles from anywhere.

I went to see if they had any rooms and I was immediately struck by the number of young women who were sitting outside the club door. I was even more impressed by the shortness of their skirts. When a young woman wearing bright red hot pants and a red curly wig took me by the hand the penny finally dropped. I fled.

A while ago we were driving home from some do in Elche. It was a cool evening and as we drove up the dark lane, the one that connects the avenue by the train station to the northern ring road, just by the university there, my passenger commented on the young woman standing by the side of the road wearing diaphanous white trousers that showed off her underwear "Poor girl, she must be really cold."

There are women standing by the roadside all over Spain; some set up garden chairs with large umbrellas so that they are more comfortable as they wait for trade in the hot sun. Others just wear thigh length boots.

On the outskirts of the majority of Spanish towns there is a Club. You probably know where there is at least one. Most of the signs just say Club though others have names and flashing neon signs with pictures of cocktail glasses or gyrating neon women. The Spanish call them Puti Clubs, presumably a mix of the Spanish word for a prostitute, puta, and the name for a cute little cat, but used in the North American way. One of my pals said that he'd popped into the club just outside Santa Pola - purely for research you understand. "Gorgeous girls" he said, "and they came over straight away and asked us to buy them a drink - they wanted Champagne, it cost me 60€ for a half bottle of Cava."

The Clubs aren't new to Spain, they stayed open all through the Franco years and many Spaniards consider that their marriages have survived because of the services offered by these Clubs. The husband popping out for a quick drink and a bit of a lie down seems to be culturally acceptable.

Apparently, as in the UK, prostitution in Spain exists in a legal vacuum. Individual women, and I presume men, can advertise their trade openly and legally in newspapers, and magazines. Just have a look in the back of El Pais, La Verdad or Información. The police target the pimps because pimping is clearly illegal under Spanish law and because the vast majority of the pimps are involved in human trafficking. There are regular stories in the press about the disgusting way that women in poor counties are brought here, tricked into prostitution and kept in Spain against their will. In the majority of Spain the men who use prostitutes are not breaking any law though the Catalans have been talking about introducing, or may have even introduced, such a law. Brothels have been illegal since the 1950s but their thinly disguised cousins, the Clubs, are left to trade without hindrance.

No comments:

Post a Comment