• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Interview: Liberation of Paris
'Three years underground and then the call came'
David Leiba was a Jewish French resistance fighter who helped liberate Paris from the Nazis. Photo: Joshua Melvin/The Local

'Three years underground and then the call came'

David Leiba lived underground as a French resistance fighter for years before resurfacing in the rebellion that forced the German army out of Paris. He tells The Local of his memories of the ecstatic and terrifying final moments of the Nazi occupation READ  

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up
President François Hollande and his PM Manuel Valls discuss their return to work. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up

The French president returns to the front line on Wednesday for his first cabinet meeting. On his packed agenda will be the stagnant economy, the threat of deflation, unemployment and more in-fighting within his own party. READ  

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets
France is fighting back against the Asian hornet, using rods, chickens and drones. Photo: T-Mizo/Flickr

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets

After slipping into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China Asian hornets have since invaded more than half the country. Now France is fighting back, using drones, poisoned rods and even chickens. READ  

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know
Ten facts you didn't know about the liberation of Paris, including how many female collaborators were "purified". Photo: Critical past/YouTube

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know

From the "purifying" of thousands of women, to pool room surrenders, here's ten facts about a momentous moment in French history that you might not have known about. READ  

VIDEO: Paris in time lapse
Beauty of Paris captured in time lapse video
"I wanted to capture Paris in all it's glory". Photo: Screengrab Paul Richardson

Beauty of Paris captured in time lapse video

On his first trip to Paris, filmmaker Paul Richardson vowed to capture the city in all its glory. And he did just that, as this impressive time lapse video, called "J'adore Paris" shows. Watch it for yourself. READ  

Air France staff object to flying to Ebola countries
Air France staff want flights to Ebola hit countries to be suspended. Photo: AFP

Air France staff object to flying to Ebola countries

Air France cabin crew are so concerned about the threat of the Ebola epidemic that unions have started a petition calling for flights to be stopped to those West African countries most affected by the disease. READ  

French may have to shell out more for Nutella
Nutella lovers may take a hit in the pocketbook due to a shortage. Photo: Nutella/Rob Heiner

French may have to shell out more for Nutella

France's legions of Nutella fanatics may find themselves having to pay a bit more to get their fix of the chocolate spread in future after a disastrous spell of weather prompted a shortage of the product's key ingredient. READ  

Riviera penthouse to be 'world's most expensive'
You'll need money and a head for heights. Will this become the most expensive apartment in the world when it goes on sale next year? Photo: Challenges/Twitter

Riviera penthouse to be 'world's most expensive'

A penthouse apartment on the French Riviera will go on sale next year with developers expecting it to become the most expensive in the world when it exchanges hands. It could cost a cool €300 million, but thankfully comes without any "vis-a-vis". Take a look. READ  

WW2 - 70th anniversary
IN IMAGES: Liberation of Paris from the Nazis
French police and a member of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) keep a watch over the Seine in August 1944. Photo: AFP

IN IMAGES: Liberation of Paris from the Nazis

As Paris commemorates the 70th anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis, we've put together a selection of images from the start of the uprising to the celebrations on August 25th. READ  

French chocolate makers revolt over labels plan
French chocolate makers are outraged by plans for a health warnings on their products. Photo: Shutterstock

French chocolate makers revolt over labels plan

French chocolate makers are furious because the government is mulling the idea of placing warning labels on their products in an effort to promote healthier eating. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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?
Culture
Paris: The not-so-Grande Arche has fallen into a sorry state
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