Spanish lawmakers in the senate are preparing to vote on a proposal to make aporophobia (the fear of poor people) an aggravating circumstance in criminal offences. This is in response to an increase in the number of attacks against poor people.

Official data show that an estimated 23,000 people are homeless in Spain. But the Rais Foundation, which combats marginalisation and social exclusion, says the number is closer to 31,000.

As reported by Spain’s newspaper El País, the proposal to be voted on in September was tabled by left-wing Podemos.

“The state attorney general was already pointing out the need to include aporophobia as an aggravating circumstance in 2015,” said Podemo’s Joan Comorera. “We believe that with this proposal, this intolerable omission will be rectified.”

According to the Rais Foundation, a third of those who sleep on the street have either been insulted or abused, a tendency which is on the rise.

Spanish philosopher and ethics professor Adela Cortina coined the word aporophobia, the fear of poor people, to describe how the homeless are targeted and marginalized.

“Sleeping and living in the street involves an element of structural violence which is aggravated by direct attacks,” says Gema Castilla, a spokeswoman for Rais.