International Ministries

Women at Risk in Spain

May 21, 2013 Journal
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“Many people want to romanticize prostitutes.  They want to think of her as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  But the women I know are not living a fairytale.”  (Susanna Medford, Esclavitud XXI)


Anti-Trafficking Conference

From April 5-7, I had the opportunity to attend the European Baptist Fellowship’s conference on Anti-Trafficking hosted by the Evangelical Baptist church of Sabadell, Spain.  Their theme was “Co-Labourers with God” and their objective was to bring together Baptists from Eastern and Western Europe who were involved in ministries addressing the issue of Sexual and Labor Exploitation.  Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Romania, the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Ireland, England, and Nigeria were some of the countries represented.

A Closer Look at Spain

Even though I had attended several conferences sponsored in the United Statese on the Issue of Trafficking and Prostitution, I discovered that going to a country where prostitution is legal opened my eyes and heart to another dark layer of trafficking.  When speaking of Human Trafficking, a country can be labeled as a transit, destination, or origin country.  Spain is all three.  This means that women and children are trafficked through and to Spain from other parts of the world, as well as from Spain itself.

Prostitution in Spain

Susanna Medford, a missionary kid who grew up in Spain and still resides there, told us that there are 300-400 thousand women in prostitution in Spain.  This is the same number reported in Germany, but Germany has twice the population.  The three nationalities highly trafficked to Spain are Romanian, Paraguayan, and Brazilian women.  In 1995, Spain decriminalized prostitution.  A pimp or madam is now considered a professional business person.  If prosecuted, a trafficker serves only a 5-10 year sentence, but prosecution rarely happens.  Therefore, women won’t prosecute their traffickers because they can be out on bail in a couple hours and her life is endangered.

One out of Four Men

One out of four Spanish men admit to having visited a prostitute.  Spain, therefore, is one of the top consumers of prostitution.  It is also more and more common for high school students to visit prostitutes.  This is due to the fact that as the economy worsens, the price of a prostitute has dropped to only 20-40 Euros ($25-50 USD).  No one considers these women victims because in Spain they are referred to as clients.  But this is not a fair exchange.  It is exploitation.

Thirteen is Age of Consent

What is the most disturbing reality, however, is that in Spain the legal age of consent is 13 and you can still get legally married at age 14. So if a thirteen-year-old is discovered in prostitution, no action is taken because she’s considered of legal age and she’s part of a legal profession. 

What if you had Daughters?

Because she has two daughters herself, Susanna was outraged by Spain’s viewpoint on this issue.  She and several others united to form Esclavitud XXI—fighting Human Slavery in the 21st century.  She challenged us to follow Jesus’ example of treating women with love and dignity.  She challenged us to pressure authorities and politicians to change laws that put our children at risk.  She challenged churches to stop hiding, to stop pretending trafficking doesn’t happen because people are suffering in every neighborhood, in every country around the world. 

Legalized Prostitution Isn’t Safer

Many politicians in Spain, and in other countries where prostitution has been legalized, thought that women would be safer, less exploited as a result of the legalization.  But 10-15 years later, governments are finding out that this is not the case.  In fact, prostitution is now the third, and sometimes the second, most profitable business among crime syndicates all over the world.  Arms dealing still ranks as number one.

Setting Captives Free

Despite the dark and harsh reality of what is happening in Spain, I came away with hope.  People like Susanna reminded me that God’s purposes will not be thwarted by evil.  God continues to call forth men and women to fight against oppression, to set the captives free.  Just by reading this journal article you are participating in the Jesus Light.  You are now more educated about Human Trafficking than you were 5-10 minutes ago.  Knowledge is power.  It stops the cycle of indifference.  Acting on your knowledge is even more powerful.  Because then you begin to choose to live out your faith with the wounded people God places before you.

(This journal is the first of several that Joyce will publish about her experience at the EBF conference as well as her subsequent trip to Italy with Missionary Debbie Kelsey where she dived even deeper into the world of Human Trafficking.)