Spain’s Gagging Law will Have Implications for Sex Workers

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Europe Regional Correspondent
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In late March, the Spanish parliament passed a controversial “gagging law,” (known as “ley mordaza”) which includes provisions that rights groups say infringe on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The Citizen’s Security Law will limit where and when protests can take place, and will fine demonstrators for committing public order offences. Newsweek reports these fines could which be as high as €600,000 for unauthorised demonstrations outside certain buildings, including the Congress, Senate and regional legislative assemblies, nuclear power plants, docks and airports.

Despite disapproval from all 14 opposition parties, Newsweek reports, the ruling Popular Party (PP) used its majority to pass the law, which will come into effect in July.

Prior to its passage, Human Rights Watch (HRW) appealed to the Spanish Senate to scrap the draft bill, saying: “The bill would make life even harder for marginalized people living and working on the streets, with a punitive approach that undermines social inclusion and a range of basic human rights.”

HRW said, “the bill takes a punitive approach to the homeless, sex workers, and people who use drugs.”

In a statement issued prior to the law being passed, the Platform for the Rights of Sex Workers (La Plataforma por los Derechos de las Personas Trabajadoras del Sexo) said they opposed approval of the draft Law on Protection of Public Safety. “It affects our scope of work,” they said, “the draft law criminalises people involved in prostitution … we see that sex workers who meet their customers in public spaces will be penalised more severely because they may be accused of disobedience or resistance to authority, with serious consequences for their lives.”

“The execution of this draft Law will lead to those who sell sex on public roads in Spain being persecuted and harassed, which, far from solving any social problem of coexistence or public safety, will further worsen the conditions in which this activity is exercised. It will contribute to increased vulnerability because they will be forced to engage in more remote places and to negotiate the terms of sexual service faster and underground, which will mean a loss of control in negotiating condom use, price, practices, etc….
“The criminalisation of an activity that is not a crime in the Spanish State -- since neither prostitution, nor solicitation of sexual services are identified as such -- will create a climate of insecurity and helplessness and thus increase vulnerability and violence.”

The Platform for the Rights of Sex Workers stated they demand the recognition and protection of rights of citizenship, including labour rights to help protect people in sex work against abuses. “Also,” they said, “we demand the decriminalisation of their work, even though, remember, prostitution is not a crime.”
The Platform for the Rights of Sex Workers is made up of groups including:

Ambit Prevencio / Ambit Dona, Catalonia; Association of Transexual Women and Transvestite Sex Workers in Spain (AMTTTSE), Málaga; Human Rights Association of Andalusia (APDHA); Sex Professionals Association (APROSEX). Catalonia; Colectivo Hetaira, Madrid; Committee for the Support of Sex Workers (CATS), Murcia, and Prostitutas Indignadas, Barcelona.