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Spain wants to criminalize prostitution to curb exploitation of women



MADRID – The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, promised to take over the criminalization of prostitution in the country, with the argument that the practice “enslaves” women. Speaking at the congress of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), Sunday, Sánchez pledged to follow through on the promise made by his legend in the government’s 2019 electoral program. The document places prostitution as “one of the cruelest aspects of the feminization of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women”.

The practice has grown in Spain since it was decriminalized in 1995. A 2011 United Nations report cites Spain as the third largest country of prostitution in the world, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico, and states that the country has become famous as the “brothel of Europe”.

Recent estimates indicate that sales of the sex trade in Spain amount to $ 26.5 billion per year, with at least 300,000 people working in the industry.

The practice is legal in several European countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Greece. Advocates of legal sex work say the practice has benefits for women working in the trade, making their lives safer. But critics say countries that have legalized or decriminalized the sex trade often see an increase in human trafficking, pimping and other related crimes.

In the 1980s, most of the country’s sex workers were Spanish. But in the 2000s, the majority were immigrants from poor countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa, making them vulnerable to exploitation. The issue has become a political controversy, in part because it is linked to concerns about illegal immigration.

Prostitution is not regulated in Spain, and there are no penalties for those who voluntarily offer paid sex, as long as it does not take place in public spaces. But pimping – acting like a “pimp” – between a sex worker and a potential client is illegal.

This situation has opened a legal loophole for companies to obtain a license to open clubs that function as brothels, without being able to hire sex workers directly; they must rent the rooms in which they will work, without benefiting from the same advantages and legal protections as other workers.

In 2020, nearly 100 academics, artists, writers, lawyers and former sex workers signed a manifesto calling for the abolition of prostitution in Spain. The document pointed out that the overwhelming majority of sex workers were women living in poverty, with no evidence that they would have chosen prostitution over another viable alternative.

The Spanish government did not give details on the plan to criminalize prostitution on Sunday. Sánchez, a minority socialist in government, won the elections with the support of the working class, women and voters outside major urban centers, with the promise of policies favoring public health, education and pay equity .

Advocacy groups like the Sex Workers Support Committee argue that prostitution should be recognized as a legitimate economic activity rather than being abolished, and that sex workers should have the same rights as other professionals.

“It is not the role of the socialists to take the work of 300,000 people, mainly immigrant women. Only rights can end exploitation, no more attacks, no more policing, ”a UK rights group wrote on Twitter in response to Sánchez’s announcement, adding:“ The criminalization of buyers and sellers. establishments does not abolish prostitution, it makes the situation of workers more precarious. and precarious ”.

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