• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Rival protests as French MPs debate prostitution

AFP/The Local · 29 Nov 2013, 13:03

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'

Story continues below…

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.

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

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French fuel crisis latest: 5,100 petrol stations run dry
Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Some 40 percent of petrol stations have run dry in France.

Masked youths clash with police in Paris protest
Police and protesters also clashed in Paris last week. Photo: AFP

Labour protests in Paris have turned violent, again.

A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
All photos: AFP

A rundown of all the strikes in France today and in the coming days and weeks. Good luck.

Police raid McDonald's French HQ in tax probe
Photo: _Skynet/Flickr

French police have said that they raided the French headquarters of McDonald's in a tax probe.

Euro 2016
'You're not welcome': French police warn English yobs
England football fans burn a Tunisian flag in Marseille in 1998 during riots that marred the World Cup. Photo: AFP

French police tell English fans who might be heading to France to cause trouble: Don't bother.

Paris property prices gone mad? €50,000 for 3m² 'loft'
Ile Saint Louis. Photo: AFP

A sign of how mad property prices in Paris have become?

Readers' Views
French fuel strikes:  A tedious 'tantrum' or a 'sacred' duty?
Photo: AFP

The nationwide strikes and the fuel crisis have left France divided. Here's what you have had to say.

The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
Photo: AFP

Everything you need to know about the French fuel crisis.

Good news from France: Unemployment rate falls again
Applicants talk to recruiters at a French jobs fair. Photo: AFP

Some much needed positive news for the French government

Five free smartphone apps to help you find petrol in France
Photo: CAFNR/Flickr

Looking for petrol in France? Here's how to find it with the help of your smartphone.

National
The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
Culture
Paris: Street artist makes the Louvre pyramid disappear
Interactive map: Where to find petrol in France
Who is the French union in a 'fight to the death' with the government?
Society
Opinion: Why the French are absolutely right to go on strike
National
Here's why both sides despise France's labour reforms
National
Who is really to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
Lifestyle
New map reveals Paris flat prices by Metro station
Culture
Paris: Here's how to find French cinema in English
Culture
How to say 'OUCH' in French (and ten other sounds)
National
Get ready: France to be hit by week of transport strikes
Culture
France readies for first national 'motorway party'
2,735
jobs available