• France edition
 
Rival protests as French MPs debate prostitution
Two protestors in Paris in October hold signs saying "Penalized clients = Murdered whores" and "Sex work is work." Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Rival protests as French MPs debate prostitution

Published: 29 Nov 2013 13:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 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
French unemployment hits new record high
Photo: AFP

French unemployment hits new record high

Unemployment in France hit a new record in September, with official statistics published Friday showing 3.43 million people claimed jobless benefits. READ  

French claim success in Isis air raids
Photo: AFP/ECPAD/EMA/ARMEE DE L'AIR

French claim success in Isis air raids

France's Chief of the Defense Staff Pierre de Villiers has claimed that air strikes on Thursday and Friday by French, US and allied aircraft "hurt" Islamic State forces. READ  

French website exposes EU budget letter
French President Francois Hollande. Photo: AFP

French website exposes EU budget letter

A confidential letter sent to France by the EU Commission demanding clarifications on its 2015 budget, which will break EU spending rules, was unveiled Friday by a French news website. READ  

Le Pen: France needs to take control of borders
Front National president Marine Le Pen speaks to the press during a visit in the city of Calais, northern France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Le Pen: France needs to take control of borders

National Front leader Marine Le Pen visited the northern port city of Calais on Friday where tensions are high as authorities under increasing pressure to control the influx of illegal migrants trying to get to Britain. READ  

Burglar in the buff snared by French police
A burglar in the buff was snared red handed and bare-bottomed by French police this week. Photo: Shutterstock

Burglar in the buff snared by French police

French police were called out to a bizarre incident this week when they received calls from scared residents in villages in central France alerting them to the presence of a burglar who was targeting homes in the buff. READ  

France to bring in Ebola checks 'on all transport'
A passenger arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport is checked for Ebola. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

France to bring in Ebola checks 'on all transport'

French president François Hollande said on Friday that measures to counter the risk of Ebola reaching France will be increased with tests to be carried out on people arriving in France on “all forms of transport”, meaning boats as well as planes. READ  

French military chief: 'It's safe to say we hurt Isis'
France and its allies "hurt" Isis forces in Iraq, French military chief has said. Photo: AFP

French military chief: 'It's safe to say we hurt Isis'

The leader of France's armed forces said his country's military "hurt" Isis forces in a recent raid led by the international coalition battling the extremists in Iraq. READ  

What's on in France
What's on in France: 11 things to do in November
The annual cider festival in Le Sap Normandy, just one of the many things to do in France in November. Photo: JCMayzaud

What's on in France: 11 things to do in November

If you're short of ideas for what to do in France in November, we've gathered together a list of 11 events that are well worth checking out, especially if you're into art, wine, music or just can't wait to get in the Christmas spirit. READ  

Paris: Saudi robbed of €15k cash while dining
Relations between France and Saudi Arabia could soon be strained if Paris thieves are not stopped. Photo: Dominic Faget/AFP

Paris: Saudi robbed of €15k cash while dining

A man working for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Paris had a whopping €15,000 in cash stolen while dining out in the city on Tuesday afternoon. He’s just the latest Saudi national to be targeted by thieves in France. READ  

Budget row: EU asks France for more details
Hollande and his PM Manuel Valls will have to convince Brussels their 2015 budget is in order. Photo: AFP

Budget row: EU asks France for more details

French President Francois Hollande said his country had received an EU Commission letter asking for clarifications over its 2015 budget, which forecasts that France will miss the deficit targets laid by Brussels by a wide margin. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
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