Spanish NGO 1000 Moroccans Work As Prostitutes in Melilla

Rabat – While prostitution is illegal in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, approximately 1,000 women,  almost entirely from Morocco, work as there as prostitutes, according to estimates by local NGO Melilla Acoge, which provides medical and other assistance to prostitutes.In the Spanish autonomous city, “almost 100 percent of the prostitutes are from Morocco,” said the president of the organization Maria Jesus Martin Collantes. Since 2002, the NGO has only treated two prostitutes of Spanish nationality.Dressed usually in djellabas, and hard to recognize as prostitutes,” she said,“they not only come from the Rif area, but also from Rabat and Casablanca.” Moroccan prostitutes who cross into Melilla can be  separated into two groups, explained Martín Collantes: those who enter in the morning and return at noon, and those who come in the afternoon to work during the night.Although the majority of women who practice prostitution in Melilla are aged between 18 and 35, there are also some as old as 60.Women are forced into prostitution because of “misery and complicated personal situations,” according to the NGO.  Most prostitutes are widows, divorced, have children to support, or come from families without financial means.“A lot of us think they want to leave,” said the NGO, recognizing that abandoning a life of prostitution is difficult.However, some “have married and have changed their lives,” noted the organization.  If they have children, they can take them to a school reinforcement program developed by Melilla Acoge.To help prostitutes in the city, the NGO distributes contraceptives and organizes a variety of workshops, including classes on sexually transmitted diseases, Spanish language, cooking, hairdressing, and handicrafts.The group has also signed an agreement with a laboratory to perform tests for diseases such as AIDS, syphilis, and gonorrhea.“We have also worked on the individual development, self-esteem and emancipation of these women. Many of them have psychological problems,” concluded the president of Melilla Acoge.