By Andrew Ede
THE season started on Thursday, but before it had even got underway, the news coming out of Magalluf, especially via social media, was the same as always. Worse perhaps. The prostitutes were back and were more brazen than previously. Where were the police? What was Calvia town hall doing? What about those promises of greater security and tougher action?
Magalluf is not the only resort which has problems with prostitution. Playa de Palma is similarly affected. In recognition of this, there was a meeting on Wednesday between police forces in Palma, Calvia and Llucmajor and a group called Gepib (Grupo de estudio de la prostitución de Baleares). It was organised by Palma town hall’s social welfare and equality unit.
The principal reason for the meeting was to consider a report produced by Gepib in association with the university in Palma. It is entitled: “Reflections and Recommendations: Good Communication Practices Concerning Prostitution”. Essentially, it is a guide for the media, Gepib having called for a “change in treatment” and for an avoidance, through the press, of stigmatising and sensationalising prostitutes and prostitution.
The report itself makes for quite interesting reading. Did you know, for instance, that, while 19% of European men are or have been clients of prostitutes, the figure rises to 39% of Spanish men? Did you know that Spanish law does not recognise or prohibit or regulate prostitution? Legally, it doesn’t exist, except when it comes to lack of consent. Forced prostitution is illegal. The law also refers to victims who are foreign women who find themselves in situations of “administrative irregularity” (no papers, therefore) and who, if apprehended, can have a period of thirty days during which they can consider whether they wish to co-operate with the police in investigating suspected criminality.
Did you also know that one out of seven prostitutes is the victim of exploitation and coercion, that Spain has the second highest number of women who have been victims of human trafficking in Europe and that, in a one-year period alone (2009-2010), this number all but quadrupled. The Spanish Interior Ministry reckons that there are in fact some 12,000 women who are affected. No one knows for sure, though.
It is the case that many, if not all the women who engage in prostitution in Magalluf and Playa de Palma are victims of human trafficking, of threats of violence and of abuse by organised criminal gangs. There have been arrests of ringleaders, but the practice continues. Gepib is right to draw attention to the wretched circumstances that women find themselves in and to also seek restraint, greater objectivity and wider and better citing of sources in media reporting. However, what Gepib doesn’t go into is the reality of what happens in Magalluf and Playa de Palma. What is ostensibly prostitution isn’t prostitution; it is robbery with violence, perpetrated by women in fear of the gangs.
In addressing the “good communication practices”, Gepib takes issue with the “over-representation” of street prostitution. (It underlines the word “over-representation” in order to emphasise the point.) Only one in four prostitutes operates on the streets, says the report, but well over a half of news reports analysed in the study dealt with street prostitution. The group says that press coverage often is respectful, insofar as it doesn’t always state nationality or circumstance (illegal immigrants), but it quotes examples where it isn’t.
One was headlined - “New night raid against street prostitution in Magalluf”. This was an example of sensationalism and of criminalising the women who practise prostitution, so Gepib maintains. But almost certainly it was a headline that had to do with what are referred to as the mugging prostitutes of Magalluf.
The issue in both Magalluf and Playa de Palma is one of organised crime. The crime of human trafficking has produced its further crimes - not prostitution, because this isn’t illegal - but robbery and violence. Gepib can call for “good communication practices” but it, as with so many in Magalluf and Playa de Palma, should be calling for good police practices to stamp out the gangs once and for all. Easier said than done, though. The National Police and Guardia Civil are confronted with a massive problem.
I have calculated that since 2006 I have written almost one hundred articles in which the all-inclusive has been the main theme. Put them together, and I have pretty much written the book. There is no more to be said. Except of course there is, and it was being said last week. The same old familiar tunes were being played by some of the same old players. To be fair to Pepe Tirado and Acotur, the organisation has been beating the drum against AI for years, so it was to be expected that it would come out in support of PSOE’s call in Calvia for some form of regulation. Unfortunately, it will go the way as it has gone in the past. Two years ago, Acotur called a meeting of bar owners in Alcúdia to discuss AI. It was a waste of time. All words was the general response.
There is nothing that PSOE or any political party can do to regulate AI at municipal level, so let’s just nail that before anyone gets the wrong idea. A town hall does have competence to decide on planning permissions but that’s as far as it goes. In theory, the regional government could regulate, as indeed could governments in other autonomous communities or the national government.
But they wouldn’t. A ban on AIs is an impossibility, and even if competition law could somehow be invoked to try and make it a possibility, it would fail because of the threat of recrimination. In Gambia they once tried to ban AI. The tour operators threatened withdrawal. There was no more talk of a ban.
Apart from tourists suddenly deciding that they don’t want to take AI holidays, the only real means of regulation is that of service. In this, the regional tourism ministry, were it of a mind to, could make a difference. It has in place the requirement for all hotels to submit quality plans. It could go further and stipulate actual levels of service - time taken to be served, for instance. The queues to get a drink of low quality dispensed in a plastic glass are the stuff of all-inclusive legend. And they are true. I live in AI land. I know it, I see it, I hear it.
If the ministry was true to its words in the 2012 tourism law which set out the requirements for a higher quality hotel in Majorca, then it would insist on standards of service (and of quality) in all-inclusives and withdraw authorisation for this form of accommodation if they were not being met (there are potentially many hotels which might be affected). But it won’t. All words. As always, all words. Thousands upon thousands of them.