French lawmakers will next week test France's long history of liberal attitudes toward sex by introducing a bill outlawing prostitution.

"/> French lawmakers will next week test France's long history of liberal attitudes toward sex by introducing a bill outlawing prostitution.

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PROSTITUTION

France moves to ban prostitution

French lawmakers will next week test France's long history of liberal attitudes toward sex by introducing a bill outlawing prostitution.

The moves come with France gripped by coverage of a prostitution scandal involving former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been linked with a pimping ring operating out of luxury hotels in the northern city of Lille.

Lawmakers from all parties represented in the National Assembly, France’s lower house, will on Tuesday present the bill to outlaw the purchase of sex, said Guy Geoffroy of the ruling UMP party.

The resolution “has been signed by officials of all political groups in the National Assembly”, he said.

Prostitution is not illegal in France though several linked activities are, including soliciting, procuring and operating a brothel, while paying for sex with someone under the age of 18 is banned. The new bill will target prostitutes’ clients, criminalizing payment for sex.

The bill follows recommendations from a cross-party parliamentary commission that said criminalization “is the best path to reducing prostitution in France, as countries that have regulated this activity saw it increase”.

Earlier this year, the commission recommended imposing sentences of up to six months in prison and a €3,000 ($4,040) fine on clients of prostitutes.

The head of the commission, Socialist lawmaker Danielle Bousquet, said it was expected to take several months to vote on the bill.

Sex workers’ groups denounced the proposal as an attack on their rights and this week protested in front of the National Assembly against the bill.

“Abolition and repression have never been the solution, all sociologists say so,” a member of the Strass sex workers’ group who gave her name only as Chloe said at the protest on Tuesday.

She said “feminists” should “stop speaking for us” and urged lawmakers to instead grant sex workers full legal status.

“We can pay our taxes but we have no social benefits in return. Some girls get €72.50 a month in pension after 40 years of contributing.”

An estimated 20,000 people work as prostitutes in France, with 80 percent of them women and an estimated 99 percent of clients men.

Prostitution has been thrown into the spotlight in France in recent weeks as media devoted widespread coverage to the case of eight leading members of Lille society charged with operating a ring that provided sex workers to clients including, allegedly, to Strauss-Kahn.

The one-time top contender for the French presidency resigned as IMF chief in May after he was accused of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid, though the charges against him were later dropped. He denies any criminal conduct.


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PROSTITUTION

Nigerian sex traffickers jailed in France

A French court sentenced 24 members of a Lyon-based sex trafficking ring to prison terms of up to seven years for forcing Nigerian women into prostitution.

Nigerian sex traffickers jailed in France
Photos: AFP

Nearly all of the defendants were themselves Nigerian, in the latest case to highlight the growing use of African migrants in the European sex trade.

They include one of Europe's most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of acting as a France-based “madam” to women recruited mainly in Nigeria's southern Edo State.

Edosomwan was tried in absentia.

Nigeria was the main country of origin for the tens of thousands of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to Europe by boat in 2016 and 2017.

Many were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex to repay their smugglers.

Seventeen women filed complaints against the defendants but none of the victims attended the trial, with the exception of one former sex worker who found herself in the dock for luring another woman into the trade.

The accused had faced up to 10 years' imprisonment on charges including human trafficking, pimping, money laundering and helping people live illegally in France.

Prosecutors estimated that the victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to $166 000 a month for the syndicate by selling sex in vans parked by the side of the road for as little as 10 euros.

A French mechanic who looked after the vans was among the 24 defendants.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based, female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” – many themselves former trafficking victims – were jailed for up to 11 years for forcing girls into slavery in France.

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The UN estimates that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy – usually their first port of call in Europe – are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

Most of the women come from Nigeria's Benin City, a human trafficking hotbed.

Many told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they had to promise to repay the money for their passage to Europe.

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