Spain provides lockdown support for trafficking victims, prostitutes

Reuters , Tuesday 21 Apr 2020

Podemos (We can) party members Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero attend a press conference regarding
Podemos (We can) party members Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero attend a press conference regarding the purchase of a house for over 600,000 euros (525,336 pounds) in Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2018. (Reuters)

Spain unveiled on Tuesday a series of measures aimed at helping prostitutes and victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation survive the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Under the new measures, victims will be able to access improved support services, emergency accommodation and claim a new social benefit for those at risk of extreme poverty, the Ministry of Equality said.

"Today we have extended our measures protecting gender violence victims to women victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitutes. You are not alone," Irene Montero, Spain's Minister of Equality wrote on Twitter.

"The health crisis must not leave any woman unprotected," added Noelia Vera, Spain's Secretary of State for Equality and Gender Violence.

Spain has had one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, with more than 204,000 infections and over 21,200 deaths.

Sex workers across the globe have been left destitute by the closure of brothels due to the coronavirus, but only a handful of countries - including Bangladesh - have pledged support.

Victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation and prostitutes have not had their rights protected since March 12, with normal support services halted because of restrictions on movement, the ministry said in a statement.

During inspections and closures of hostels, hotels and clubs, the army and police will better coordinate with organizations that provide assistance and protection, to detect and identify victims more effectively, the government said.

The government also said it would try to raise awareness of existing 24-hour telephone and online support services for victims, including the police's dedicated trafficking hotline.

Virginia Gil, director of non-profit Aspacia Foundation, which fights violence against women, said the measures were to be welcomed as there was little state support for female trafficking victims but implementation would be complicated.

"It's positive that they're taking these victims into account because they're in an extremely vulnerable situation ... but often they don't even know where these women are or how to detect them," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Victims also often do not want to be found because they are worried about their illegal status, she added.

Spain is due to formally announce the benefit, known as the Minimum Vital Income, in coming days, aiming to give financial support to about 1 million Spanish families at risk of extreme poverty from the start of May.

Women who are living in Spain illegally will be able to access the financial aid, the ministry said, without giving any specific details on how much they will receive.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned on Saturday that the country's lockdown would be extended until at least May 9.

The government has already introduced emergency measures for other vulnerable groups expected to be disproportionately hit by the lockdown, including domestic workers and jobless illegal immigrants. 

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