Sex work could be banned in Spain as prime minister Pedro Sánchez says it 'enslaves' women

"We will advance by abolishing prostitution," Pedro Sanchez said. Credit: AP

Sex work could be banned in Spain after the country's prime minister said it "enslaves" women.

Speaking at the end of his Socialist party in conference, Pedro Sánchez highlighted a series of policies his government had brought in - including tougher domestic violence laws and minimum wage hikes.

Addressing his party, Mr Sánchez said: "And out of this congress emerges a commitment I will implement. We will advance by abolishing prostitution, which enslaves women."

The industry remains unregulated, and while sexual exploitation and pimping are illegal in Spain, campaigners say the industry drives demand for human trafficking.

NGOs believe a large percentage of people working in the sex industry in Spain are forced to do so as trafficking victims. 

Campaigners against criminalisation say laws end up compromising on safety of those in the industry by driving work underground.

They say banning it just makes it harder for sex workers to negotiate terms with clients and work together with other sex workers for safety.

Sex work in Spain has seen increasing numbers of workers since it was decriminalised in 1995, and the industry is estimated to be worth €3.7 billion (£3.12 billion).

According to a 2009 study by the country's state-owned Social Investigations Centre (CIS), one in three men had paid for sex at least once in their life.

A 2011 United Nations report named Spain as the third biggest sex work capital in the world, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico.