A CALL TO ACTION// Feminists for the Rights of Sex Workers


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In March 2020, the Ministry for Equality presented the first reading of a draft bill of the comprehensive law of the guarantee of sexual freedom. The law was presented as a recognition of the consensus amongst feminists on the need for legal changes around sexual violence. However, the second reading, presented in October 2020, fractured this consensus by criminalising people doing practices related to sex work. It is a matter of urgency that society, and especially feminist movements, are aware of the consequences that this law could have for women who voluntarily do sex work. Therefore, as Feministas por los Derechos de las Trabajadoras Sexuales (Feminists for the Rights of Sex Workers), we publically declare that:

  1. Sex workers, who were neither informed nor involved in the development process of the draft bill (despite having the right to take part) have been openly excluded from the process. The situation has gone from developing and evaluating policies with ‘the voices of affected women’ as a fundamentally feminist issue, to excluding certain groups of women from the development of laws which affect them.
  2. We demand the withdrawal of the proposed amendment to article 187.2 of the Spanish Penal Code which criminalises ‘third parties’ (decriminalised since 1995) with up to three years imprisonment for anyone ‘who habitually and with a profit motive, uses a building for the prostitution of another person, including with their consent.’ This opens the door to the criminalisation of women who rent or share buildings with other sex workers. It also restricts access to accommodation for sex workers, especially those who live in their place of work, for fear of landlords being accused of pimping.
  3. We demand the withdrawal of the proposed amendment to article 187.2 of the Spanish Penal Code because it opens the possibility of incarcerating women linked to the working environment of sex work. A pimp being whoever ‘makes a profit exploiting the prostitution of another person even with the consent of the person’, the amendment proposes a widening of the concept of ‘exploitation’ to ‘when there exists a benefit from a relationship of dependency or subordination.’ In this way, self- organised workers can be reported to the authorities for sharing a flat if a relationship of dependency or subordination is believed to exist because, for example, one of them is an un-documented migrant. Any person implicated in any way in the practice of sex work could also be reported as a pimp (security and safety services, hygiene, transport, etc.) Therefore, while the draft bill claims to focus on women’s consent, it actually nullifies and criminalises the consent of sex workers.
  4. All of these measures will disproportionately affect trans people, who are unemployed at an average rate of 85% and often undertake sex work as their only option. Criminalising the most precarious trans people, mainly migrants, at the same time as recognising rights of gender self-identification is a paradox which makes clear the harmful effects of this proposal.
  5. The criminalisation of sex workers is exploited economically: the draft bill sets out that economic assistance for victims of sexual violence will come from assets seized through the measures for criminalizing sex work described so far. This, apart from encouraging the persecution of sex workers, unnecessarily links the rights of women who have suffered sexual violence with the criminalisation and seizing of assets of other women, sex workers.
  6. The aforementioned measures makes independent sex work harder and more precarious, exacerbating stigma and weakening existing support networks between sex workers. The criminalisation of spaces where sex work happens will increase police power and police presence, endangering migrant un-documented workers who are at risk of deportation. Increased police patrols and raids also force trafficked women to report traffickers- with no guarantee of what will happen to them- or to be deported. This is why a wide range of international human rights organisations argue that laws which criminalise women who do sex work are discriminatory and should be withdrawn.

Therefore, we ask you to add your signature in support of this manifesto. You are invited to sign as an organisation of any kind, or as an individual.