MADRID (AP) — Protesters including brothel owners and sex workers protested outside the Spanish Parliament on Monday over a bill that would penalize clients of prostitution and owners of sex clubs or pimps with sentences of up to 4 years in prison.
The bill backed by the left-wing ruling party, the PSOE, proposes to broaden the definition of pimping, not making the exploitation of a prostitute a necessity but a mere business relationship. For the first time in Spain, this would also penalize customers.
Protesters wore face masks and used bright red umbrellas to conceal their identities.
“We ask the Socialist Party to withdraw the bill, which implies a real abolition of prostitution and condemns us to work underground,” said Susana Pastor, president of the Platform Against Abolition. She owns an apartment in Valencia where women rent rooms to offer sexual services.
“I came here today to protect my job,” said one protester, Sandra, a single mother who has worked in sex for 12 years.
But the new sex workers’ union, Otras, did not back Monday’s protest because sex club owners organized it.
“They don’t care about the rights of sex workers at all,” Otras secretary general Concha Borrell told The Associated Press.
Borrell demands legal contracts for sex workers and estimates there are around 200,000 in Spain.
Otras and sex business owners deny official government data that 90% of sex work in the country is forced. According to police, 491 victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation were rescued in Spain in 2021.
At the European level, the European Parliament estimates that there are up to 180,000 victims of trafficking exploited in prostitution and that the industry generates 10.8 billion euros ($10.9 billion) a year in the block.
Spain is considered to have one of the most lax legal frameworks on prostitution in Europe, only punishing where exploitation or abuse can be proven. The proposed bill would punish both clients and facilitators. It still has to go through parliament.
Spain also recently banned advertising for prostitution.
This story corrects the EU figure to €10.8 billion, not millions, per year.
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