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Roadside prostitution moving into the virtual world

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With the rise of new technologies, roadside prostitution has given way to a new way of accessing the services of those involved in the practice, by transferring into the virtual world. Now the victims are no longer on the street, but are captured through digital platforms and social networks. They are no longer as conspicuous and therefore it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of tose who are exploiting the workers. To deal with this reality, the Valencia City Council, and specifically the Department of Equality, Gender Policies and LGTBI, is working on modifying the action protocol.

“Digital platforms play a very important role and are a big problem. Before there were more women who were in a situation of prostitution on the street, but now these cases are isolated. There are almost no prostitutes on the streets of the city, but they are found in the networks. This change means that the model of action must also be changed,” says the councillor responsible for the area, Lucía Beamud. For this reason, and with the aim of putting an end to this problem, the council has begun the process of preparing the Comprehensive Plan for the prevention and care of women in situations of prostitution or sexual exploitation in the municipality to care for the victims.

At this time, the plan is in the diagnosis phase. In it, the technicians are in charge of analysing the current situation of prostitution in the city. “You have to know the real image to be able to plan the measures or actions. For this reason, it is important to know the results obtained”, explains the councillor.

Very soon, the participatory process will take place, which will have the collaboration of other entities and associations related to prostitution and trafficking of victims. The next step will be to modify the Prostitution Ordinance of Valencia, approved in 2013. “The plans and protocols have to be alive because reality is changing. For this reason, we need to establish some bases to be able to change the legislation”, she emphasises.

Current regulations penalise people who use prostitutes. However, the situation is now more complicated, since, on many occasions, the “pimps” hide behind a screen.

In order to learn about the situation and the problems faced by the victims, the council meets periodically with the coordinator. “Victims suffer complex and very different realities, since, in each case, the forms of recruitment are different and, therefore, the comprehensive care tasks must be diverse,” adds Beamud. Despite the fact that there is no clear profile, the majority of victims are immigrant women recruited through social platforms. For this reason, the consistory calls for clearer digital regulations. “Municipal powers are very limited. Prevention and awareness campaigns have been carried out and it addresses them comprehensively, but we need more tools”, she indicates.

However, Beamud acknowledges that the council’s work has already borne some fruit, although the data is difficult to quantify. “The abusers are not in the same place, but they are moving. For this reason, it is more difficult to intervene”, she concludes.

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