//Spanish region to form cooperatives for prostitutes

Spanish region to form cooperatives for prostitutes

[ Friday, May 05, 2006 08:40:33 pmIANS ]

MADRID: The northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia is preparing to regulate prostitution, which would encourage sex workers to form cooperatives, and run brothels, the El Pais newspaper reported on Friday.

The goal is to get prostitutes off the streets, increase their independence from pimps and to allow the authorities to control hygiene and other conditions in brothels.

The plan is unprecedented in Spain, which has up to 400,000 mainly foreign female sex workers.

Voluntary prostitution is not illegal in the country, but the authorities have not been able to eradicate criminal rings coercing large numbers of women into the sex trade.

The Catalan plan, which needs the approval of the parliament of the region of six million, encourages prostitutes to form cooperatives to control the sale of their services instead of relying on pimps.

Brothels controlled by prostitutes would be exempted from some rules to be applied to ordinary brothels such as a distance of 250 metres from schools and other brothels.

The draft legislation would ban street prostitution, raise the minimum age of sex workers from 18 to 21 years and set prostitutes' maximum working time at eight hours, six days a week.

The law would limit the number of rooms in brothels to six if run by prostitutes and to 12 if managed by other entrepreneurs, to abolish "macro-brothels."

The Women's Institute, an organ dependent on the Spanish Labour Ministry, has criticised the Catalan plan, describing prostitution as a "degrading practice incompatible with democratic values."

A parliamentary working group is to study prostitution in order to make recommendations to the government.