MADRID – The government of Spain wants to abolish prostitution. The Ministry of Equality has allocated an amount of €217 million until 2026. However, prostitutes are angry that they are not heard.
The law to abolish prostitution is being drafted without those concerned and directly affected by it being heard. Over the past three months, the ministry, led by Irene Montero has announced three ways in which the budget of €217 million will be allocated:
- €204 million in the Camino plan (approved on September 20) aims to provide economic, labour and social benefits to victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and women in the context of prostitution;
- €12.9 million for the implementation of the so-called Social and Occupational Integration Plan. This is based on grants to entities committed to the social and occupational integration of women in the above-mentioned circumstances;
- €101,887.96 will go to a study to map the number and distribution of sex workers in Spain.
The amount for the research, mentioned in the third point, is justified. This is according to the delegation against gender-based violence. Because “data and studies on prostitution, sexual exploitation and human trafficking for sexual exploitation are scarce at the national and international level”. In addition, those data are generally qualitative and use unrepresentative or biased sampling. That means there is a wide variety of figures and data coexisting.”
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Over 90% of sex workers are victims of trafficking or exploitation
This view is in stark contrast to figures which would indicate that of the 45,000 women who are supposed to work as prostitutes in Spain, between 90 – 95% are victims of human trafficking or sexual exploitation. These figures are used to base the law 122/000240, which must be approved before the end of this year.
However, no one has consulted the prostitutes themselves about the law to abolish prostitution. Moreover, interest groups representing them have been asking for a meeting with Montero for months. They want the minister to listen to their arguments and experiences. To date, Montero has not responded to this request.
A law “for them” and “with them”
That is why, since last June, the platform Stop Abolition has been organising demonstrations every month in Spain’s main cities to demand that a law be made “for them” or “with them”. No association or interest group of sex workers was consulted in the formulation of the law,” the platform said in the Spanish press.
Fines and prison sentences
The bill, promoted by the PSOE and supported by Unidas Podemos and the PP, includes the amendment of Article 187 of the Criminal Code. This means that the pimp can be punished in a general way without the need for an exploitative relationship . Such as fines and prison terms of one to three years. Third parties such as owners of premises where prostitution is practised are also punished with prison terms of two to four years, including fines for all those who profit from sex work.
Sentenced to illegality
The Stop Abolition platform opposes the new legislation with various arguments. One of the most important is that the law bans de facto all forms of sex work by punishing all related services, including housing. In addition, they criticize the fact that the data available to date on which decision-making is based is not reliable. In addition, academics and experts warn that the criminalization of sex work inevitably leads to illegality. Then there is the argument that the processes of non-voluntary reintegration are not very effective in practice. “Sex workers don’t ask to be saved, but to be respected and for rights,” they say.
Difficult to re-enter the country with high unemployment
On the other hand, they point out that Spain is a country with a high unemployment rate and a large underground economy compared to other European countries. That would make confronting the forced reintegration of a large and unknown number of sex workers an action of high social risk. “In a country with severe housing and employment shortages, a political action of massive forced reintegration could have catastrophic consequences,” it said.
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“With the research data on the table, the law makes no sense. It will lead to more delinquency, marginalisation, stigmatisation and social disrespect,” says anthropologist Carmen Meneses. The anthropologist spent months studying the phenomenon in various clubs.
First labour market reform and immigration laws needed
“If you want to control prostitution, you first have to reform the labour market and change the immigration law. Most women who do sex work do it to earn money, either continuously or sporadically. And most foreigners in that market do not have a residence permit and therefore cannot work legally. Two circumstances that underlie the reasons why women choose prostitution,” the researcher adds.