Criminally prosecute pimping, prostitutes, the owners of the premises where it occurs, and protect the victims. This socialist proposal has been given the green light this Tuesday by the Congress of Deputies with the support of the Popular Party and the majority, but broken, of United We Can. With 232 votes in favor, 38 against (including the ERC and the CUP) and 69 abstentions (including the deputies of EH Bildu, PNV and Vox), this is the first step in the process required by the bill socialist to ban pimping in all its forms. Adriana Lastra, the deputy secretary general of the PSOE, in charge of defending the regulations, has recalled that according to the Ministry of the Interior there are around 45,000 women sexually exploited in Spain; The UN and the European Union estimate that 80% of the victims of trafficking detected in Europe are women and girls, and of these, 95% are victims of sexual exploitation. “The time for excuses is over and the time for decisions has come,” Lastra launched. And the debate has been opened, at times very heated, especially by minority groups.
The object of the socialist proposal is exclusively a reform of the Penal Code to prohibit pimping, however, the interventions of the different groups have focused on trafficking —for which there is a comprehensive law in process—, pornography —which not alluded to in the text—and prostitution, especially prostitution. And the difference is remarkable and the background is important.
First, because it is not the same —prostitution is the exchange of sex for money and pimping is profiting from the prostitution of others—; second, because until now it has been prostitution and not pimping that has led to the greatest differences both within the different groups that make up United We Can, its government partner, and among the minority groups that supported the investiture; and because of these differences, so far irreconcilable, comes this four-page text from the Socialists that went to the Chamber this Tuesday.
Almost three weeks ago, in the final stretch for the so-called law of only yes is yes reached Congress —the penultimate step for its entry into force, since it only has the process left in the Senate— the PSOE had to withdraw the amendment that it had included in that regulation to prohibit pimping because it put progress in the process at risk. The different groups had not reached an agreement and that dissent could bring down the Law of Sexual Freedom. The Socialists withdrew it, but 24 hours later they registered the proposal debated on Tuesday; something that different parliamentarians have criticized the socialists today. “The consequence of a tantrum”, has defined this proposal Joseba Andoni Agirretxea , from EAJ-PNV.
The point is that, although none of the groups agrees that there are third parties who profit from the prostitution of women, there is no unanimity on prostitution itself. There are those who defend that there are women who do it freely and that, in that case, it should be regulated to provide them with rights. Mireia Vehí, from the CUP; Isabel Pozueta, from EH Bildu; Agirretxea, from the PNV, or Sara Giménez, from Ciudadanos, have insisted on this: according to their position, a separation must be established between women who “freely and voluntarily practice prostitution” and sexual exploitation and trafficking for that purpose.
These groups, in addition, have alluded to “punitiveness” as a “patch” solution and not in substance; and they have been extended in all the elements that do include the integral law of trafficking that manages in the Government but that are not part of the socialist proposal, exclusively focused on the reform of the Penal Code.
According to data from the National Police, Adriana Lastra has stated, between 2017 and 2020, 883 people were arrested for sex trafficking and 824 for sexual exploitation; the victims of this trafficking amounted to 737 in that period and 1,872 those subjected to sexual exploitation. “That’s what we talk about when we talk about those who profit,” insisted the socialist. However, for minority groups this is not enough. “The Penal Code only serves to punish, not to solve, and less so in social issues,” summarized Agirretxea, the PNV parliamentarian. Several, including him, have also recalled that now there is “majority, opportunity and desire” to repeal the Immigration Law, directly related to the conditions of immigrant women and their situation of vulnerability.
The debate is not new nor does it end this Tuesday. For now, the proposition will go ahead. The next step will be the constitution of a paper to study the text —something for which there is no stipulated deadline and will depend on the will of the groups—, and for each parliamentary group to present its amendments. From there will come the text that will go back to the plenary session of Congress.
The proposal for an Organic Law that would modify the current one, that of 1995, of the Penal Code, has as its objective “to prohibit pimping in all its forms”, and includes not only those who profit, but also those who “promote, favor or facilitate the prostitution of another person”.
According to the socialists, pimping “is an action incompatible with a conception of human rights typical of the advanced democratic society advocated by the Constitution.” Although the legislation already penalizes this crime, they believe that “it still does not have enough criminal reproach, unlike what happens in other countries around us, which have already proceeded to regulate its persecution.” This is the case of Sweden or France, to which Lastra has made reference on several occasions. Here, the keys to that reform.
Expand the crime. Article 187.2 of the Criminal Code, in its current wording, does not punish any form of obtaining profit from the prostitution of others, but rather requires that it has been carried out through the “exploitation” of the prostituted person. This definition, they explain, “has led to a total non-application of this precept and, in practice, to total impunity for pimping.”
With the modification, the exploitation relationship will not exist as a requirement, since, according to what is written in the proposal of the norm, that definition leaves in a legal vacuum some questions “such as the receipt of money from the prostituted person (for example, relatives) and other behaviors that can be considered neutral or innocuous”.
Changes in penalties. Prison sentences for pimps go from two to five years to three to six years; and the fine, which right now is in the range of 12 to 24 months, goes from 18 to 24 months. In addition, it is established that the penalty will be imposed in its upper half when prostitution is exercised from an act of violence, intimidation, deception or abuse; and in the case of the heads, administrators or managers of said criminal organizations or associations that engage in pimping.
locative third party [son quienes obtienen lucro proporcionando los lugares para la prostitución]. This legal figure will be punished as a specific and aggravated form of pimping in a separate article of the Penal Code, with a “slight increase in sentence”.
To this end, they introduce a new article, 187 bis, with the following wording: “Anyone who, for profit and on a regular basis, allocates a building, premises or establishment, whether or not it is open to the public, or any other space, to promote , favoring or facilitating the prostitution of another person, even with their consent, will be punished with a prison sentence of two to four years and a fine of eighteen to twenty-four months, without prejudice to the closure provided for in article 194 of this Code. The penalty will be imposed in its upper half when prostitution is exercised from an act of violence, intimidation, deception or abuse.
Puteros. The Citizen Security Law (the so-called gag law), allows since 2015 to sanction prostitutes, but also women. The PSOE wants it to be the Penal Code that punishes clients and that it is not possible to penalize them. “The people who turn to women in a situation of prostitution participate directly in the framework that sustains this serious violation of human rights,” says the legislative proposal, therefore, “this initiative contemplates the criminal reproach of this type of conduct.”
For this they introduce a new article, 187 ter, which establishes that “the fact of agreeing to the practice of acts of a sexual nature in exchange for money or another type of benefit of economic content, will be punished with a fine of 12 to 24 months”, that “in the event that the person who performs the act of a sexual nature is a minor or a person in a vulnerable situation, a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years and a fine of 24 to 48 months will be imposed”, and that “ in no case will the person who is in a situation of prostitution be sanctioned”.
Victim Consideration. “It is considered necessary to equate the prostituted person with the victim of a crime, which is why the rights and benefits provided for in the Statute of the victim of the crime are extended to him” and “these people will also enjoy all the rights of assistance integral that are recognized in the legislation on sexual freedom”, reads the text. That law, that of Sexual Freedom, which only remains to pass through the Senate, lists victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation as victims of sexist violence and establishes “comprehensive assistance services for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation as specific resources to respond to this profile of victims with specific needs”.
Sexual and reproductive health. In the section already in force that refers to “when the culprit has endangered, intentionally or due to gross negligence, the life or health of the victim”, the PSOE proposal includes “sexual or reproductive health”, and “when the victim is pregnant”.
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