Sex workers in Spain held a protest on Monday Sep. 12 against a new bill that aims to abolish sex work.
The Platform against Abolition of Prostitution organized the protest outside the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, where sex workers demonstrated with red umbrellas and masks.
The organization also organized other protests in major Spanish cities such as Bilbao, Barcelona, Valencia, and Sevilla.
Prostitution was decriminalized in Spain in 1995, but sexual exploitation and pimping are illegal.
The new bill would punish “pimping in a general way, without requiring a relationship of exploitation“, as well as consumers.
Under the bill, clients will be fined and anyone who financially exploits sex workers will be punished, including landlords who knowingly rent property for prostitution, according to EuroNews.
The premise of the bill implies all sex work is done unwillingly, and sex workers would be treated as victims instead of criminals, according to Reuters.
Authorities estimate that at least 80% of women who are sex workers are victims of sexual abuse and are being coerced.
The Platform against Abolition of Prostitution and other sex worker organizations in Spain have denied such claims.
“We ask the socialist party to withdraw the bill, that implies an actual abolition of prostitution and condemns us to work underground,” the president of the Platform against Abolition of Prostitution, Susana Pastor, said according to Associated Press.
Rather than criminalize abortion, they propose that the government creates a commission to develop the rights of sex workers, while still punishing abusers and human traffickers, according to local news media, The Objective.
Natalia, a former sex worker, told Reuters in June that the bill “infantilises” women in the trade.
“Obviously this work has problems, and we need help to obtain rights, but not from the point of view of victimisation,” she said.
There are an estimated at least 100,000 sex workers in Spain.