Spanish Prime Minister Pledges to Outlaw Prostitution

Pedro Sánchez vows to end enslavement of women.

Pedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain, speaks at a press conference in Madrid on April 13.
Pedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain, speaks at a press conference in Madrid on April 13. (photo: La Moncloa - Gobierno de España / via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Spain’s prime minister has vowed to end the practice of prostitution in the country, saying it enslaves women. 

Pedro Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, made the pledge at the end of a party congress in Valencia. Sánchez, a self-described atheist who took office in January 2020, has yet to draft legislation on the matter.

Spain is estimated to be one of the largest markets for prostitution in Europe. According to a 2009 survey by a Spanish state agency, one in three men in the historically Catholic country has paid for sex. 

While prostitution has been decriminalized and unregulated in Spain since 1995, sexual exploitation and pimping are illegal. Brothels in the country shut down in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The BBC reported that Spanish police freed nearly 900 women being exploited as sex workers in 2019 and estimate that more than 80% of those working as prostitutes are victims of mafias. 

An April 2019 manifesto published by Sánchez’s party called prostitution "one of the cruelest aspects of the feminization of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women,” AFP reported.

In the United States, prostitution is legal only in 10 rural Nevada counties.

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against mafias as well as against prostitution, warning that such vice is part of a “throwaway culture” that treats women as second-rate.

Sánchez has previously clashed with the Church in Spain over religious instruction in schools, the legalization of abortion, pro-life protests and euthanasia, among other issues. 

Bishop Luis Argüello, secretary general for the Spanish bishops’ conference, said in a Saturday tweet that he hopes those in the Socialist Workers‘ Party who oppose practices such as surrogacy and prostitution would apply the same logic to abortion, which he called “contrary to the right to make decisions about one’s own body.”

In July 2020, Sánchez claimed that Pope Francis had intervened to help the government carry out the controversial exhumation of the body of Francisco Franco, Spain's ruler from 1939 to 1975, from the Valley of the Fallen on Oct. 24, 2019.

This prompted the Holy See to issue a statement insisting that it had never “made any declaration on either the exhumation or the place of burial, because it is not part of its competency.”

Sánchez met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in October 2020.