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Prostitution

Spanish brothel’s “back to school” party sparks outrage in Andalusia

Town hall orders promotional fliers for schoolgirl-themed event to be removed

The flyers El Bosque distributed
The flyers El Bosque distributed

At El Bosque, the “back to school” party was going to take place on Friday, September 15, at 6pm. There was going to be schoolgirls with short plaid skirts and white button-down shirts (that are unbuttoned), go-go dancers, strippers, erotic shows, and a chance to win a €300 voucher (what the voucher was for is unclear). But El Bosque is not a school or a university. It’s a roadside brothel in Cartaya, a city in the southwestern province of Huelva (Andalusia), and on Tuesday it distributed fliers to publicize the event.

The manager, who prefers to remain anonymous, can’t understand why this year’s event has caused such a stir, as the party has been running for 10 years. “At least since I’ve been working here,” he says. Some kind of change seems to be in the air, however, and something that may previously have gone unnoticed is now being rejected outright by some members of the public. On Wednesday morning, after a meeting, members of the city council became aware of the promotional fliers, and photos and complaints quickly spread through Cartaya via WhatsApp.

I see it excessive, although I do understand that it would bother some, but every year the posters are the same

El Bosque manager 

“We immediately sent the local police with a mayoral decree instructing the brothel to remove the advertising material,” says deputy mayor Manuel Barroso, adding that the fliers are offensive and under no circumstances should they be permitted. The officers, who immediately went to the venue, were not able to deliver the request until the premises reopened late in the afternoon. However, the manager assures us that they collected everything distributed shortly after the controversy began. “There is nothing left here, not in Lepe, nor in Isla Cristina, where we also tend to distribute. In Ayamonte, which is the other town where we do it, we didn’t even make it there. We saw it at 2pm on the news and I had everything collected.”

The city council confirmed that claim. “The local police finally managed to talk to the owner of the club to warn him about his obligation to remove the advertising from the street,” a spokesperson explains. “This person, who apparently had already heard about the reaction, claims to have spent the whole day removing the advertising. Furthermore, we have information that he has not only withdrawn the advertising but also canceled the event altogether.”

The manager of the venue offers his apologies “to anyone who might have been upset,” but explains that the club runs four parties a year, “spring, summer, Halloween, and back to school,” and nothing like this had ever happened before. “I see it as excessive, and while I do understand that this might bother some people, we don’t incite nor force anything, and every year the posters are similar.”

The flyer El Bosque distributed
The flyer El Bosque distributed

But the local council takes a different view of the incident. “We have the legal team working to see what can be done and how we can prevent this in the future,” says Barroso. “We work a great deal to fight against any kind of sexism.” He says that when the last municipal budgets were being finalized, if there was something that everyone agreed on, it was in raising the funds for the fight against gender violence.”

Shortly after finding out about the fliers, the council informed the Andalusian Women’s Institute, which went public with the incident. The institute, which is under the authority of the regional government, does not have any regulatory powers, but it has sent the fliers to the Andalusian Observatory of Non-Sexist Advertising, arguing that the advertising could even “incite pedophilia.”

On these pieces of paper, women are portrayed as a product someone can consume for the price of a €10 ticket, which includes two free drinks. What else could be expected of a brothel? Some will say, obviously, nothing. But here, beyond the grievance of the advertisement, there is another issue: the response. And the response has been the unanimous reaction.The town council of Cartaya, local residents, the Andalusian Women’s Institute, the Huelva Feminist Movement... At last, there has been a reaction.

English version by Debora Almeida

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