The aim of this study is to analyse the effects on sex workers of new regulations that ban the practice of street prostitution in Spain. This country has not traditionally maintained a clear policy regarding prostitution. However, in recent years there has been a clear turn towards the criminalization of behaviours related to voluntary prostitution. The city councils of several Spanish cities have banned the practice of street prostitution and sanctioned it with fines issued to both prostitutes and clients. Even if few studies on prostitution have been carried out in Spain, none of them had yet analysed the effects of the adoption of civic ordinances on sex workers.
In this paper we present the results of an empirical research carried out with a sample of 79 sex workers – in 20 cases with in-depth interviews – to explore the effects of the new regulation on their labour conditions.
Policy actions undertaken in Spain with regard to street prostitution are very far from leading to
the situation desired by the sex workers who made up the study sample, especially at a time when
the offensive against street sex work is intensifying. The adoption of a soft prohibitionist model
trough the approval of municipal ordinances, which prohibit the purchase and the selling of sexual
services as well as the practise of paid sex in public spaces, has shown its ineffectiveness so far.
However, bearing in mind the limited effects that this policy is having on improving the living
conditions of street sex workers, perhaps the adoption of a legalizing approach would be more
operational. This will probably not lead to the avowed goal of eradicating the practice of sex work,
but at least it would dignify the living conditions of those who work voluntarily in this ﬁeld.