go to top
Women march while holding a banner calling for the abolition of prostitution in Valladolid, Spain. Women march while holding a banner calling for the abolition of prostitution at the Plaza Fuente Dorada in Valladolid, Spain, Oct. 17, 2021 (Europa Press photo by Claudia Alba via AP Images).

Legalize or Criminalize? Spain’s Prostitution Debate Highlights a Policy Dilemma

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021

MADRID—Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is vowing to outlaw prostitution, arguing that it “enslaves” women. While Spain decriminalized the practice in 1995, Sanchez’s Socialist Party now wants to go the way of Sweden, where it is illegal to buy sex but not to sell it

The Spanish government’s about-face illustrates how in the past few decades, Europe has become a laboratory for policies to address not only prostitution itself, but also the ways in which it goes hand-in-hand with human trafficking. Whereas countries like Norway and France have followed Sweden’s lead in trying to ban the practice on the demand side, Germany and the Netherlands have opted to legalize and regulate prostitution. While the laws themselves vary from country to country, they fall into one of two familiar policy prescriptions of how to address what Rudyard Kipling, writing in 1888, famously called “the most ancient profession in the world”: criminalize, or legalize and regulate.  ...

To read more,

enter your email address then choose one of the three options below.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.