Sex Work

In Spain, prostitution is not specifically regulated and is therefore neither prohibited nor recognized as work. Sex workers’ rights are not recognized. It is considered a criminal offense for a person to profit from the prostitution of another (if done under certain conditions, which must include taking advantage of a person in a vulnerable or needy situation).

The only regulation regarding sex work appears in Chapter V, on crimes related to prostitution and the corruption of minors, of the Spanish Criminal Code.

Certain cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao etc.) have a local regulation. In Barcelona or in cities where the law is still pending, such as Bilbao, street sex work is prohibited under council rules on the legal grounds related to the right of the free use of public space.

The fact that prostitution is not specifically regulated allows to each council to create their own measures, which most often take on the form of police harassment of street sex workers and the creation of specific regulations on public spaces targeted at controlling sex work on the streets (e.g. Madrid,Barcelona). In Bilbao, for instance, there are regulations for the clubs where prostitution takes place, which determine the distance between clubs and rules on hygiene; a law forbidding street sex work has been proposed, but not yet come into effect.

Each council that considers prostitution to be a problem in its jurisdiction may enact bylaws or create programmes to eradicate it (particularly street prostitution). The clearest examples are Madrid and Barcelona. In 2004, the city council of Madrid launched a ‘programme to combat sexual exploitation’ that actually entailed police harassment against street sex workers, the control of clients or men walking around the area where prostitutes are known to work, random blood alcohol tests to control potential clients (enabling the police to send fines to their homes revealing where they were at what time),

The city council of Barcelona passed a bylaw prohibiting the ‘inappropriate use of public places’ that included sex work among the activities defined as inappropriate ways of using public spaces. This law permits the police to administer fines to both sex workers and their clients.