THE Spanish parliament has voted to draw up wide reaching legislation in a bid to crackdown on prostituion.
The controversial move is targeted at those who benefit financially from the exploitation of prostitutes, through pimping and human trafficking, and moves towards treating prostitutes as victims rather than criminals.
The bill would not make prostitution itself illegal but proposes prison terms of between three and six years, as well as fines, for both pimps and those who pay for prostitutes.
It also proposes penalties for those who profit from knowingly providing premises where prostitution is carried out.
With the bill, the government wants to introduce longer jail sentences for pimping and to remove the present requirement for police to demonstrate an exploitative relationship exists with the sex worker in order to prosecute.
“People who turn to women in a situation of prostitution participate directly in the network that shores up this serious violation of human rights,” the Socialist party said on its parliamentary Twitter account.
But the proposed law has divided opinion within the women’s rights movement.
Medicos del Mundo, which estimates that of some 80% of the 350,000 women working as prostitutes in Spain are foreigners without legal papers, insists such a law is required and will make women safer.
While Antigona, a group of academics in favour of legalising prostitution, argue that it would force undocumented migrants underground and make them even more vulnerable.
The bill has won backing from the conservative opposition Popular Party and sailed through parliament with 232 lawmakers voting for it and only 38 against.
It will likely go through a raft of amendments before it will be finally approved by parliament, a process that could take many months.