• France's news in English
 
France set for new law to fine clients of prostitutes
France looks set to introduce fines for clients of prostitutes, but will it make matters worse? Photo: Stefan Andrej Shambora

France set for new law to fine clients of prostitutes

Published: 27 Nov 2013 08:44 GMT+01:00

A divisive bill that punishes the clients of prostitutes is due to go before lawmakers in France's National Assembly on Wednesday, in the latest controversial social reform by President Francois Hollande's government.

The bill, which the government says is aimed at preventing violence against women, has come under fire from celebrities like Catherine Deneuve and Charles Aznavour, as well as leading intellectuals and prostitutes themselves. 

Spearheaded by Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the law will fine clients of prostitutes €1,500 ($2,025) for a first offence and double that for repeat offenders.

Prostitution itself is legal in France but soliciting, pimping and minors selling sex, are prohibited. The government estimates that between 20,000 and 40,000 prostitutes operate in France, at least 80 percent of whom are from abroad.

Several hundred prostitutes marched through the streets of Paris to denounce the plan last month, waving placards reading: "Punishing Clients = Killing Prostitutes" and "We're Whores and We're Proud!"

Sex workers' union Strass argues the measure will hurt prostitutes by driving the practice further underground.

“The prostitutes will be forced to work in remote places, hidden away so as not to risk being discovered by the police. This will simply mean they will be more exposed to violence, theft and rape,” Manon, a 26-year-old, who has worked as a prostitute in the city of Toulouse for the last five years, told The Local.

“It is already difficult to go to the police and make a complaint and this law would make it even harder. Those who attack or rape prostitutes know this and the number of attacks and rapes will only increase." (Click below to read more of what Manon had to say)

Opinion: Should France fine people caught buying sex?

Supporters of the bill point out that it also proposes a series of measures to assist prostitutes, especially those trafficked to France, including easier access to working papers, housing and financial support.

Hélène de Rugy, from Amicale du Nid, a group which offers support to sex workers, is backing the bill.

"With prostitution, there are no sellers and buyers, only victims and perpetrators," she told The Local.

The new legislation would also overturn Nicolas Sarkozy's 2003 ban on "passive soliciting", which was also deemed to have made life more dangerous for sex workers because it pushed them out of city-centre streets to more isolated locations.

Many were forced to wear casual clothing, like jeans and trainers, to disguise their activity. 

"Hands off my whore"

Opponents of the bill, however, say its punitive nature is a step too far and intrudes on the private lives of French citizens.

In a series of open letters, celebrities and cultural figures have urged the government to reconsider the plan.

About 60 people, including Deneuve, Aznavour and former culture minister Jack Lang published an open letter this month opposing the bill and calling for "a real debate" on prostitution "without ideological prejudice".

Another more contentious letter published last month and entitled "Hands off my whore!", declared: "When parliament gets involved in adopting rules on sexuality, everyone's freedom is threatened."

The letter was controversially dubbed the "Manifesto of the 343 Bastards", echoing another text published in 1971 by 343 women declaring they had had an abortion when it was still illegal in France.

Surprising some, among the most vocal opponents of the bill has been the philosopher and feminist Elisabeth Badinter, who has pleaded that "the state has no place legislating on individual sexual activity."

Badinter said she saw no direct link between male sexuality and violence against women, accusing some of having "a stereotypical view that is very negative and moralistic and which I reject."

"We welcome the position taken by France"

Her remarks drew a sharp rebuke from Health Minister Marisol Touraine.

"Feminism cannot accept that... the great majority of women prostitutes are subjected to violence and exploitation on a daily basis," Touraine said.

The progress of the bill will be watched closely from anti-prostitution groups outside France.

"The position taken by the French government, which qualifies prostitution as a form of violence against women and an obstacle to gender equality, reflects a strong political will to put an end to this violation of women's rights and dignity," Andrea Matolcsi, Trafficking Officer for London-based group "Equality Now" told The Local.
 
"We cannot but welcome and applaud this policy approach."
 
"Abolishing the system of prostitution is the best way to address the structural inequalities between women and men and at the same time effectively tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation," Matolcsi added.
 
The bill comes as Europe is also in the midst of a wider debate over prostitution, which is legal in several countries on the continent.

A decade after Germany legalized prostitution, dozens of politicians, actors and journalists this month signed an appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel and parliament to abolish sex work.

Critics say that Germany's legalization of prostitution has backfired, turning the country into a "paradise for pimps" who have exploited women from central and eastern European countries.

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French towns allowed to welcome Baby Jesus
The Christian tradition of putting up an exhibition of the birth of Jesus Christ angers strict secularists in France. Photo: Joe Raedle/AFP

French towns allowed to welcome Baby Jesus

Traditionalists won another victory on Monday in France's annual nativity wars as a court allowed a town hall south of Paris to keep its display on the birth of Jesus Christ that has angered secularists. READ  

French pensioner spends six days stuck in bath
A French pensioner spent six days stuck in the bath until a postal worker came to her aid. Photo: Dream24seven/flickr

French pensioner spends six days stuck in bath

An inquisitive postal worker in southern France has saved a woman in her eighties who was trapped in her bathtub for six long days. READ  

Terrorist attacks?
French driver's rampage 'not an act of terrorism'
France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks to the press in Dijon. Photo: jean-Philippe Ksiazek

French driver's rampage 'not an act of terrorism'

UPDATED: President François Hollande has called for the 'utmost vigilance' after two random attacks over the weekend, including one which saw a driver mow down 13 people in the city of Dijon. Prosecutors have concluded however that it wasn't a terrorist act. READ  

France - weather
Year 2014 in France will be warmest since 1900
France is set for its warmest year since 1900. But it may not be time to celebrate. Photo: Shutterstock

Year 2014 in France will be warmest since 1900

Barring an unlikely Arctic weather snap to end the year, France will record its hottest year since 1900 with average temperatures in 2014 1.2 °C higher on than they've been for over a century. READ  

Ten dishes that make a French Christmas feast
Le Reveillon - the traditional Christmas eve "awakening" dinner in France. Bring your Gaviscon or Rennie indigestion tablets.

Ten dishes that make a French Christmas feast

Christmas Eve marks the culinary highlight of the year for French families, when they settle down for "Le Reveillon", a marathon feast fit for kings (as long as they're not vegetarians) which often begins AFTER midnight mass. See what they will be gorging on in the early hours of Christmas Day. READ  

France's only kosher vineyard fights its corner
Sartene's vineyard is the only one in Europe to produce wine that's 100 percent kosher. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

France's only kosher vineyard fights its corner

It was a visit to Jerusalem that inspired Frenchman Alexandre Sartene to start the world's third kosher vineyard outside Israel which, despite a rocky start, now exports as far as Brazil. READ  

France's Amazon strike puts pressure on Santa
Amazon workers in the company warehouses in France “walk up to 22 kilometres a day according to calculations with a pedometer”. Photo: Andrew Yates/AFP

France's Amazon strike puts pressure on Santa

A major French trade union has called on Amazon workers to go on strike on Monday to demand a salary hike and better working conditions, a decision likely to have an effect on anyone in France hoping to buy last minute Christmas gifts on the online shopping portal. READ  

Ligue 1 round-up
Marseille win to ensure top spot at Christmas
Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa celebrates after his team scores against Lille on Sunday. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Marseille win to ensure top spot at Christmas

Marseille will end the year on top of Ligue 1 after beating Lille on Sunday. Marcelo Bielsa's team finish the first half of the season three points ahead of rivals PSG and two ahead of Lyon. Here's a round-up of all the latest action from Ligue 1 READ  

France braces for doctors' Christmas strike
ER doctors are due to kick off the protest on Monday. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

France braces for doctors' Christmas strike

France is bracing for a major strike over the Christmas period by overworked doctors, including casualty staff and specialists, unhappy about a new health bill. READ  

Driver yelling 'Allahu Akbar' rams pedestrians
Police examine evidence after a driver ploughed into pedestrians in Dijon. Photo: Arnaud Finistre/AFP

Driver yelling 'Allahu Akbar' rams pedestrians

A driver shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") ploughed into pedestrians in eastern France Sunday, injuring 11 of them, just a day after a man yelling the same words was killed in an attack on police officers. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
How many will you have? 10 dishes to make up a French Christmas feast
National
Conspiracy theory: Was the missing Malaysia Airlines flight shot down?
National
Santa bikers ride through Paris for orphans
Culture
Top 10 tackiest 'Made in France' gifts
Gallery
10 traditions that make a French Christmas
Culture
GALLERY: The French language's fixation with 'les Anglais'
Society
So what does the web tell us about the French in the year 2014
Society
Have the French fallen out of love with Christmas?
National
Immigration in France: Hollande hits back at the scaremongers
Culture
What's on: 10 things to do in France before Christmas
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Muslims rule France in 2022: The bad boy of French literature is back
Gallery
There are so many things that claim to be French but aren't. Here are 12.
National
Crazy cat stories: Moggie returns after 1,200km trek across France
National
Tea sets for boys? French feminists protest 'gendered' Christmas presents
National
Jacques Chirac's 'head' - The perfect place to hide 1.5 kilos of weed
Gallery
Myths debunked: 11 things you (wrongly) presumed about France
National
Prices are tumbling but the property ladder is increasingly out of reach for the French
Education
IN IMAGES: French universities 'in ruin'. The students have the evidence
National
Life's about to get a lot cheaper for Paris commuters. Or is it?
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for partying with the French this Christmas
National
Some famous French fine wines are under threat from high speed trains
National
VIDEO: Homeless bodybuilder turns the streets of Paris into his gym
Business & Money
Noble Prize for Economics: Six things to know about Jean Tirole
Culture
Nobel Literature Prize: Ten things to know about Patrick Modiano
Gallery
Looking for a good Christmas market in France? Here's our top 10
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The top 15 new inventions to come out of France
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Gallery
Miss France Farmer: The contest to find a 'real French beauty'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Lyon's spectacular festival of lights dazzles once again
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Ten French Bond girls through the ages
National
Outrage forces French city to scrap yellow triangle ID cards for homeless
Gallery
Who does Christmas better - The French or Anglos? We decide.
National
All you need to know about the new French Bond girl Léa Seydoux
International
'My iPod's broken' - French jihadists moan about lack of home comforts
National
Race you to the top of the Eiffel Tower. No seriously, I'll race you.
National
And what if Mona Lisa was really a slave from China?
Opinion
Why company bosses in France have just about had enough
National
What impact did a 'giant butt plug' in Paris have on sales of sex toys?
Travel
National Geographic's top world destination for 2015 is in France.
Society
French babies switched at birth: Families seek €12 million damages
National
Why are so many French police officers taking their own lives?
Society
Immigration in France: Ten numbers that matter
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Sarko is back in the ring: Did he ever really leave it?
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se