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Ibiza's Sex Workers Have Formed Spain's First Prostitution Union

Marking the country’s first sex union, The Sex Services Cooperative of Spain allows its members to obtain work permits, pay taxes, reap the benefits of health care, pension and get their first credit cards.

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The first sex worker’s co-operative has recently formed in Ibiza, the party island of Spain. Marking the country’s first union for prostitutes, The Sex Services Cooperative of Spain (Sealeer Co-operative) allows its members to obtain work permits, pay taxes, reap the benefits of health care, pension and get their first credit cards. There is an estimated 3,000 prostitutes on the island, with 11 which are members of Seeleer, while 40 more sex workers have applied—all of whom are women.


The collective’s president María José López Armesto, a 42-year-old housewife who is a spokesperson for the sex workers, told AFP the women are pioneers. "We are the first cooperative in Spain that can give legal cover to the girls," she said.

While administration has yet to approve the union, Jaime Roig, an Ibiza lawyer who is an advisor to the Sealeer collective,said it is only a matter of time. “To my understanding, this should not be a problem and for once the administration should admit and accept the pure reality known as the oldest profession in the world,” he said.

Armesto, the president of The Sex Services Cooperative of Spain. Image via

With a loophole in the law, Maria said the women are working as massage therapists, reports the Spanish newspaper, Nou Diari. The co-operative helps women whose clients skip out on the bill and those who are physically abused. Recently, it even gained the support from the insular Finance Minister, Álex Minchiotti. However, Spain's conservative Catholic website is against the union, as the president Ignacio Arsuaga Rato said the women "do not have the real freedom to choose."

A place rampant with drunken tourists vomiting in the streets, Ibiza is better known as the Island of Trance. A frequent hotspot for DJs Richie Hawtin and Pete Tong, celebrity sightings include Kylie, Noel Gallagher and P. Diddy, among others.

Prostitution in Spain is a grey zone, neither legal nor illegal, and the country is even dubbed "the brothel of Europe." The latest report released in 2007, estimates 500,000 women are prostitutes in Spain, as 1.5 million men buy sex in Spain per day. That’s a turnover of $54 billion, which is said to be as large as Spain's education budget.

Sex trade workers in the Netherlands formed the world's first trade union for prostitutes, a year after has its own union in Geneva. Prostitution is legal in eight European countries, including Greece, Turkey, Latvia and Germany. This is the first sex workers union in Spain.

“Prostitution in Spain is not illegal,” said a representative from Colectivo Hetaira in Madrid, which has been defending the rights of prostitutes since 1995. “No one is prosecuted for being a sex worker. Brothels are legal, too, but disguised as hotels, and sex workers ‘renting’ rooms as particulars. In fact, this means they are working without labor rights. The story relates to win the right to be recognized sex work as work, paying taxes and getting social security benefits like any other job. This new situation allows control over their work conditions. In Spain, this has been considered a triumph by sex workers.”

Furthermore, Luca Stevenson, the coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, said the greatest need is respect. “By self-organizing, sex workers show they know what needs to be done to improve our lives and working conditions,” said Luca. “We don’t need more bad laws, criminalization or other rescue projects: we want rights and respect.”