France debates ban on sex trade
26 November 2013, 12:37
Paris - Parliamentarians
in France are to begin debating a bill this week that aims to inflict a
knockout blow to the country's sex trade.
Swedish policies, two parliamentarians from the ruling Socialist Party have
drafted legislation that aims to shift the stigma around prostitution, by
penalising the customers - rather than the sellers - of sex.
would be no prostitution without clients - that goes without saying. But we
also know there will always be clients for prostitution. Our ambition should be
to try to reduce the number," Maud Olivier, one of the authors of the
bill, wrote in a report to parliament.
the ardour of customers the bill proposes to fine those caught procuring sex €1 500, require them to attend a course about the conditions
in which prostitution is carried out, or both. For repeat offenders, the fine
would be doubled.
the estimated 20 000-40 000 people who sell sex in France - on the street, in
clubs and over the internet - would no longer face fines for touting.
they would be offered help to quit prostitution, find housing and work, and,
for foreign nationals, to become legal French residents.
Europe has grappled with a surge in the trafficking of women from former
Eastern bloc countries and Africa for work in the sex trade.
proportion of foreigners among those selling sex in France has shot up from 20%
in 1990 to 90% currently, according to statistics cited in Olivier's report.
countries have attempted differing remedies.
legalised prostitution in 2001, believing that giving sex workers the right
social benefits would boost their status. Critics say the move created a pull
effect on sex trafficking. Only a fraction of the country's estimated 400 000
sex workers registered for benefits.
the opposite tack in 1999, when it criminalised paying for sex, even putting
some customers in jail.
decade later the number of sex workers on Swedish streets has fallen
dramatically, inspiring Iceland, Finland and Norway to adopt similar laws.
of the French bill have framed the debate as one of gender equality: 85% of sex
workers in France are women, while 99 of the clients are men.
organisations and groups that represent sex workers or work with them have
warned that penalising clients will "make prostitutes more vulnerable by
forcing them further underground, further from support and health associations".
a group of around 300 prostitutes took to the streets, waving banners
proclaiming that penalising clients meant "murder" for sex workers.
A group of
celebrity authors, actors, singers and socialites, led by literary critic
Frederic Beigbeder, came out swinging against the legislation as an attack on
"liberty, literature and intimacy".
believe everyone has the right to sell their charms - and to even enjoy
it," declared the group, calling itself the 343 Bastards, in a
deliberately provocative manifesto entitled "Hands off my whore".
manifesto, which was a nod both to the 1971 abortion rights manifesto of
"343 bitches" led by feminist author Simone de Beauvoir, and to the
1980s slogan of anti-racism group SOS Racisme, "Hands off my buddy",
sparked a firestorm of debate.
343 Bitches were demanding the right to dispose freely of their bodies. The 343
Bastards are demanding the right to dispose of the bodies of others," was
the pithy put-down from Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
only one in five French people in favour of banning the purchase of sex. The
bill, which has broad cross-party support, is expected to pass nonetheless.