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Spanish sex workers and brothel owners protested in front of the country’s parliament this week in opposition to a proposed law that would penalize the customers of prostitutes and also their enablers, such as pimps or sex club owners, the Associated Press reported.
The bill, backed by the ruling left-wing Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party, proposes expanding the definition of pimping so that a simple transactional relationship is sufficient grounds to prosecute. Previously, it was necessary to prove the exploitation of a prostitute.
It would also penalize customers, a first in Spain, with these individuals facing up to four years in prison.
Demonstrators demanded the bill be killed, saying it “implies an actual abolition of prostitution and condemns us to work underground.”
Spain is believed to have one of the loosest legal frameworks for prostitution in Europe, which only punishes individuals when exploitation or abuse can be proven.
Many feminist groups oppose normalizing prostitution as a regulated trade. They welcomed the draft legislation but cautioned that it should include provisions to give vulnerable women better access to jobs or subsidies.
Spanish government data says that 90 percent of sex work in Spain is forced – but many sex business owners and the country’s sex worker union, Otras, deny that claim.
According to the police, 491 victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking were rescued in Spain in 2021.