Spanish MPs have voted in favour of a proposal to draw up legislation with the aim of ending prostitution, cracking down on the practice by targeting people who financially exploit prostitutes, as well as those who buy their services. It is a controversial initiative that has split the women’s rights movement.
The bill would not make prostitution illegal but proposes prison terms of between three and six years, as well as fines, for pimps or procurers. It also proposes penalising those who make money by knowingly providing premises or apartments for the practice of prostitution, and fines for those who pay for prostitutes.
The bill would see sex workers themselves treated as victims, to be protected rather than criminalised, as they would be under any outright ban on prostitution.
232 MPs voted in favour of the proposal, 38 voted against it and 69 abstained. The bill now faces a lengthy process during which MPs can suggest amendments that can be approved or rejected.
‘In a democracy, women are not for purchase, nor for sale,’ Adriana Lastra, the socialist PSOE’s deputy secretary general told Congress.
The proposal has sparked intense debate in Spain’s women’s rights movement.
Some organisations who work with trafficked and prostituted women, such as Medicos del Mundo, view it as a step in the right direction, while others like Antigona, a group of academics who are in favour of legalising prostitution, say it risks driving undocumented migrants underground and leaving them more vulnerable to trafficking networks.
Spain is reportedly one of the world’s leading markets for prostitution, with a 2011 UN report putting the country as the third largest, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico.