Spanish government's draft policy on prostitution proposes punishing clients

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Spanish government's draft policy on prostitution proposes punishing clients
Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made drafting a new law to tackle prostitution a flagship policy of his first term. The 50-page policy paper reportedly emphasizes "decriminalizing victims" and aims "to abolish prostitution" in Spain.


The Spanish government is proposing a spate of new legal measures to tackle prostitution. These include penalizing clients who solicit for sex and punishing landlords who make properties available to sex workers.

Further measures would also look to prosecute traffickers under existing gender violence laws, and most importantly, decriminalizing the victims themselves, who "will not be considered guilty in any case and consequently will not be sanctioned," according to a 50-page government proposal reportedly seen by Spanish daily El Pais. 

Sex work is tolerated in Spain – neither illegal nor regulated – but Prime Minister Sanchez came to power in June with a strongly feminist agenda and promising to fight the exploitation of women. There are however approximately fifty municipal ordinances that pursue prostitution at a local level. Some of them, like the one in Seville, only punish the client, according to El Pais' report. 

"Prostitution in Spain isn't legal and this government won't support any organisation that includes this illicit activity," Sanchez tweeted in late August. 

The new moves to tackle prostitution aim to abolish the practice, according to El Pais. This could prove to be a challenge, given that some estimates suggest 39 per cent of Spaniards have paid for sex at some point in their life.

Estimates for how much the sex industry generates in Spain and how many people are employed, mostly against their own will, are staggering.

According to an earlier report by rival daily El Mundo, there are approximately 100,000 women active as sex workers in Spain, approximately three times the total number of dentists in the country. The business of prostitution is worth approximately €3.5 billion per year, equivalent to 0.35 % of GDP. Eight out of 10 sex workers are forced into the trade, states another El Pais report

The issue of prostitution remains divisive in Spain. In August this year, the first sex workers union was registered.

READ ALSO: Spain's anti-prostitution PM riled as ministry green-lights sex workers' union

But in November, Spain's National Court ruled against the creation of the union, arguing that it would legalise pimping.

READ ALSO: Spanish court won't allow first sex workers union because it 'legalises pimping'

The head of the proposed first sex union, OTRAS, argued the Spanish government's desire to abolish prostitution “hides moralism and visceral hate towards sex workers”.

Concha Borrell (L), secretary general of the Organisation of Sex Workers union (OTRAS). Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP.

Concha Borrell, the union leader, stressed that for fellow sex workers, getting labour rights such as a contract, fixed salary, sick or maternity leave, holidays or retirement was “an utopia”.

READ MORE: 'Let us keep our union': Spanish sex workers demand equal labour rights


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