• France edition
 
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
Updated: 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc'
Brigitte Bardot thinks Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc. Photo: Wikicommons/AFP

'Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc'

In a new interview one-time French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot has likened the head of France’s anti-immigration National Front party to the iconic French historical figure of Joan of Arc. READ  

France armed Syrian rebels 'months ago'
Freance says it armed Syrian rebels "months ago". Photo: AFP

France armed Syrian rebels 'months ago'

France supplied arms to rebels fighting the government in Syria "months ago", French President François Hollande said on Thursday. READ  

France's mussel growers gripped by ongoing crisis
In future France may be forced to import more and more mussels to satisfy demand. Photo: Ming-Yen Hsu/flickr

France's mussel growers gripped by ongoing crisis

In future “les moules” you eat in France may longer be homegrown after mussel producers in the west of the country have reported an "unprecedented" crisis due to poor harvests. They are demanding the state hand out emergency aid. READ  

Fruit and veg prices tumble in France
Nice weather has caused Fruit and veg prices to drop in France. Photo: David Flores/Flickr

Fruit and veg prices tumble in France

Good weather and weak demand have sent fruit and vegetable prices tumbling in France this summer. However, one of France’s favorite edibles is poised to spike in cost. READ  

Camel bites baby's head at circus in France
A circus camel in France has left a baby with "multiple fractures" after it bit him on the head. Photo: Toni Paya/Flickr

Camel bites baby's head at circus in France

A four-month-old baby boy is in hospital after a circus camel bit his head leaving him with multiple fractures, French police said on Thursday. The incident comes just weeks after a lion wounded a toddler at another French circus. READ  

VIDEO: New horror movie set in Paris catacombs
A new horror flick takes place in Paris's catacombs. Photo: Screengrab/Youtube

VIDEO: New horror movie set in Paris catacombs

The Paris catacombs, known to its fans as the "kingdom of the dead", has provided the setting for a brand new horror flick that hit cinemas in France this week. Check out the trailer, though it may make you hesitate about heading below ground ever again. READ  

JobTalk France - 'Best place to work'
South west France voted 'best place to work'
Bordeaux is the favoured place of French people when it comes to work. Photo: Shutterstock

South west France voted 'best place to work'

While most expats may dream of living and working in Paris or on the Riviera, the French on the other hand believe the cities of the south west are the ideal place to work, especially Bordeaux. READ  

Australian, 70, breaks record for Channel swim
Cyril Baldock, who has become the oldest person to swim the Channel. Photo: Twitter/Age Concern

Australian, 70, breaks record for Channel swim

A 70-year-old Australian grandfather has become the oldest person to swim the English Channel. Cyril Baldock swam the 34 km from England to France in 12 hours 45 minutes and celebrated his feat with a couple of beers. READ  

French villagers come to aid of British couple
Retired British citizens Faith Dyson (R) and husband John Dyson pose in their house in Brugairolles. Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP

French villagers come to aid of British couple

Residents in a French village have united behind an elderly British couple after their dream of a quiet retirement in southern France turned into a nightmare when their neighbours - also from the UK - walled them into their home. READ  

France pushes Middle East to fight Isis fighters
France has called on Middle East nations to battle Islamic State fighters. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP

France pushes Middle East to fight Isis fighters

France urged Middle East nations to take a stand against the Islamic State fighters operating nearly unchecked in Syria and Iraq. The French president also plans to set up an international summit to craft a response to the extremists. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Gallery
Don't make a faux pas! Ten things not to do when working in France
Health
Ebola: What is the risk of it coming to France?
Health
Are the French really a nation of smokers?
Culture
Frightened by the prospect of long French dinners? You're not alone
National
'Stay in Paris in August? You'd have to be crazy'
International
Calais migrant crisis: 'People will be killed if nothing is done'
Culture
Paris is closed for August, but will it always be like that?
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