Last week, another report came through regarding sexual assault on a strawberry farm in Spain.
Rabat – A Moroccan seasonal farm worker in the Huelva region of southern Spain reported she was sexually assaulted by a farm supervisor last week. She is not the first to do so.
For years, Moroccan women have struggled to be heard and attain justice over similar berry field-related attacks.
According to Spanish media sources, the woman, 39, received medical treatment at the Juan Ramon Jimenez Hospital for injuries caused by the supervisor. He allegedly lured the woman away from the fields and assaulted her.
In response to the attack, the worker physically defended herself, leading the Huelva Public Prosecutor’s Office to change the case’s categorization from sexual assault to “mutual physical assault.”
Diego Canamero, a representative of the Andalusian Union of Workers (SAT), confirmed the aggressor’s affiliation with the farm and attested to his history of assaulting the victim and other farm workers.
SAT has filed a number of compaints related to the sexual abuse women in the fields consistenly face. The employer’s farm lobby has a history of accusing the labor union of fabricating such complaints.
The strawberry farm where the Moroccan victim was attacked is located in Lucena del Puerto, within the Andalusia region, which produces 80% of Spain’s strawberries within Europe’s largest fruit exporting industry.
A bilateral agreement between Morocco and Spain, established in 2001, permits thousands of seasonal Moroccan workers to support the annual harvest. In 2019, a total of 14,583 Moroccan workers were recruited for the agricultural season. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain announced plans to hire 16,500 seasonal workers in 2020.
Spain has since negotiated with Morocco to allow 9,000 workers to join this year’s harvest in an attempt to save the berries from going to waste.
In the Andalusian region, Moroccan workers–mostly women–are promised high wages in exchange for their labor underneath plastic greenhouse tarps. Upon arriving across their country’s border, many women suffer from poor working conditions in isolated farms.
Under vulnerable circumstances, women are often coerced into having sex, threatened, and deprived of resources.
In 2019, one woman told the New York Times, “I felt like a slave. Like an animal.”
“They brought us to exploit us and then to send us back. I wish I drowned in the sea and died before arriving in Spain.”
The Spanish justice system has been slow to respond to cases involving Moroccan seasonal workers. Trials against men who have been accused of rape, trafficking, and assault have yet to see a verdict.