• France's news in English
 

Rival protests as French MPs debate prostitution

Published: 29 Nov 2013 13:03 GMT+01:00

The demonstrations look set to involve both opponents of the move to penalize clients of prostitution - including STRASS, France's sex workers' union - and its supporters, including feminist groups, and non-profit organizations who work with prostitutes. 

The protests are set to take place on Friday afternoon outside the National Assembly in Paris, as inside the lower house of parliament, French MPs begin debating the contentious bill. 

Prostitution is legal in France, but soliciting, pimping, and the sale of sex by minors are prohibited.

The government says the bill is aimed at preventing violence against women, but critics  warn that it would force prostitutes further underground and put them in more danger.

They say everyone should be allowed to use their own body as they see fit.

Lawmakers are likely to focus on the most controversial clause in the bill, which would punish clients with a fine of €1,500 ($2,040) for a first offence and more than double that for repeat offenders.

There are an estimated 20,000-plus sex workers in France, many of whom come from Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria and Romania; African nations like Nigeria and Cameroon, and China and South America.

According to the interior ministry, foreign prostitutes make up 80 to 90 percent of all sex workers in France.

A vast majority of these are victims of trafficking rings, and the bill takes inspiration from Sweden where a similar law punishing clients has reduced street prostitution by half over the past decade.

OPINION: Should France fine those caught buying sex?

It also seeks to cancel the offence of "passive soliciting", effectively shifting the focus away from sex workers.

Maud Olivier, one of the lawmakers spearheading the bill, said the billed was aimed at "dissuading clients from feeding the (prostitution) rings with their money and to make it clear that a sexual act must not be bought".

The bill also puts forward measures to help prostitutes who want to quit, including foreigners, who would be given a six-month, renewable residence permit.

But critics insist that shifting the focus on clients will only force prostitutes further underground, and a majority of lawmakers from the main opposition UMP party are expected to abstain.

The Greens, meanwhile, are planning to vote against the bill, which they believe does not make enough of a distinction between victims of prostitution rings and independent sex workers who fear their revenues will fall.

Prostitution laws around Europe. Which country has it right?

'This law is killing me'

Many of these have taken to the streets in recent days, denouncing a bill that is already scaring clients away.

"I've lost 80 percent of my turnover," Priscilia, a 40-something sex worker in Paris, told AFP recently.

"This law is... killing me," she said, pointing out that one of her clients had told her he now goes to the more discreet Chinese massage parlours.

Around 60 people, including Deneuve and singer Charles Aznavour, released an open letter this month opposing the bill.

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

Lawmakers in the National Assembly are due to vote on the bill on Wednesday, and if approved, it will move to the upper house Senate.

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

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hollande urges EU meet after migrant tragedy
File photo: AFP

Hollande urges EU meet after migrant tragedy

French President Francois Hollande called Sunday for a meeting of EU ministers after the feared drowning of some 700 migrants on Sunday. READ  

Market shrivels for France's famed prunes
Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Market shrivels for France's famed prunes

France's famous Agen prunes have seen their market share shrivel in recent years, but local farmers have ploughed money into modern methods in a bid to save their plums. READ  

Michelin-starred chef is organic 'fanatic'
Paoli Sari. Photo: Valery Hache

Michelin-starred chef is organic 'fanatic'

France has many restaurants claiming the "bio" label, but only one to earn a star in the fabled Michelin Guide. READ  

France arms Lebanon for Isis fight
Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

France arms Lebanon for Isis fight

The first French weapons will arrive in Lebanon on Monday as allies seek to bolster the country's defences against jihadists. READ  

PSG ease Barca pain with Nice win
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

PSG ease Barca pain with Nice win

Paris Saint-Germain bounced back from their Champions League humbling against Barcelona by beating Nice 3-1 on Saturday to boost their bid for a hat-trick of Ligue 1 titles. READ  

Surfers shun Réunion after shark attacks
Photo: Richard Bouhet/AFP

Surfers shun Réunion after shark attacks

Reunion, once a haven for surfers from around the world, has become a deadly black spot for the sport after a slew of shark attacks. READ  

French ship 'Hermoine' sails again
Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

French ship 'Hermoine' sails again

A replica of the French navy frigate Hermione which brought General Lafayette to America to rally rebels fighting Britain in the US war of independence, will set sail for the United States again on Saturday, 235 years after the original crossing. READ  

Teens suspected of French website attacks
File photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Teens suspected of French website attacks

READ  

Tête-a-tête - Tu versus vous
Is it time the French scrapped tu and vous?
"Did you just say tu to me?" Photo: Shutterstock

Is it time the French scrapped tu and vous?

Everyone who has ever lived in France knows all about the social minefield that is tu and vous - and that goes for the French too. The Local France’s editor Ben McPartland and French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis argue over whether it’s time to ditch the protocol. READ  

Racism in France
France unveils plan to fight 'intolerable' racism
The French government will reveal on Friday how it plans to tackle racism in France.Photo: AFP

France unveils plan to fight 'intolerable' racism

UPDATED: France’s top ministers, lead by the PM Manuel Valls, unveiled on Friday the country's new plan to tackle rising racism and anti-Semitism in the country. Incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have rocketed since January’s terror attacks. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Sexual harassment rife on Paris trains
National
Marine Le Pen makes Time 'most influential' list
International
Torching animals to threesomes: French tourists behave badly abroad
Cannes Film Festival line-up revealed
National
Cartoonist's book slams 'Islamophobia swindlers'
National
More French women than men lured by Isis
Society
Les Entrepreneurs: We chat with the founder of Paris Picnic
National
Edith Piaf celebrated at Parisian exhibit
How the health reforms will change life in France
Gallery
Naked protests: The French love to take their clothes off to make a point
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Then and now - the site of the Alps plane crash
Travel
So why would anyone really want to live in Lille?
Opinion
Why the French should be very worried about new spying powers
National
Spain's newest export to France: Vultures
Did a row over stolen veg lead to the murder of a British expat in France?
VIDEO: French rail chiefs SNCF furious after the Paris-Roubaix race
National
What does Zlatan think of his suspension?
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
Culture
IN PICS: Take a look inside France's new 36,000 year-old tourist site
International
Did the Pope reject France's envoy to the Vatican because he was gay?
Cyberjihad: Hacking of French TV channel was 'a step up'
Politics
PROFILE: Jean-Marie Le Pen - France's far-right master provocateur
National
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police resort to calling sick
National
Dipping baguette in a bowl of coffee! - French habits foreigners don't get
Strike latest: Scores of flights cancelled in France
Features
New Calais migrant camp 'the worst in Europe'
Society
ASK THE EXPERTS: So why are the French always on strike?
National
French air traffic control strike: Tourists face travel chaos
Culture
Which stars will land an invite to the Cannes Film Festival?
Technology
Paris holds film festival for blind cinema goers
National
Paris wants to triple its number of cyclists by 2020
National
Readers tell us of the joys of living in France's 'expat no-go zones'
Cannes Film Festival says no to red carpet selfies for 2015
Health
France to ban unlimited refills of soft drinks
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
The enclosed terraces of Paris cafés - where the smoking ban is ignored.
France's 'winter truce' has been called off, but what exactly is it?
National
What's on in France: Ten things to do in April
National
Paris bistros crack down on loud tourists. Surely it's an April Fools
National
The key reforms of France's healthcare bill
National
Here's the place to get the best baguettes in Paris
More French pensioners head abroad to settle
Is it possible to make the most of fine food in Paris on a student budget?
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