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French lawmakers move to outlaw prostitution

AFP · 7 Dec 2011, 09:20

Published: 07 Dec 2011 09:20 GMT+01:00

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French lawmakers voted on Tuesday in favour of outlawing prostitution in the country, setting the stage for the introduction of a bill that would impose fines and jail time for paying for sex.

The move comes despite France's long history of liberal attitudes toward sex and with the country 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.

The non-binding resolution on the "abolition of prostitution", drafted by a cross-party commission, was approved in a show of hands vote in the lower house National Assembly.

Lawmakers from the commission were expected to introduce a bill later on Tuesday or in the next few days to criminalise paying for sex.

The commission has recommended imposing sentences of up to six months in prison and a €3,000 ($4,000) fine on clients of prostitutes.

The resolution said France should seek "a society without prostitution" and that sex work "should in no case be designated as a professional activity".

Guy Geoffroy of the ruling UMP party, a member of the commission, said earlier that passing the resolution would be "an important, symbolic and solemn step" in fighting prostitution.

"Nine prostitutes out of ten are victims of human trafficking," 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.

Yves Charpenel, the head of the Fondation Scelles, a group that fights human trafficking and is among those demanding criminalisation, said it was unclear whether the bill on criminalisation would eventually be adopted.

"There is no consensus yet on this subject," Charpenel said. "Will the deputies who vote for the abolitionist resolution then vote for its concrete application?"

"More than ever, it is necessary to clarify the French position" on prostitution, he said.

Sex workers' groups have denounced the proposal as an attack on their rights and protested against the resolution near the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Several dozen prostitutes and supporters rallied carrying signs reading "Sex Work is Work" and "Prostitution -- No Repression -- No Punishment -- Rights!"

Punishing clients will "deprive prostitutes of work that provides them with a living, give clients more power over them and push prostitutes to turn to intermediaries to be able to work," said Sarah-Marie Maffesoli, a lawyer for sex workers' group Strass.

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In a letter to lawmakers, the group called for the resolution to be voted down, saying it threatens sex workers' "health, security and livelihoods".

An estimated 20,000 people work as prostitutes in France.

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, Strauss-Kahn.

The one-time top contender for the French presidency resigned as International Monetary Fund 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 wrongdoing.

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Your comments about this article

2011-12-11 18:20:23 by Thom
“The resolution said France should seek "a society without prostitution" and that sex work "should in no case be designated as a professional activity". So hiring criminals from foreign countries and train them to kill continues to be a “professional activity” and testing nuclear bombs in a populated area is in no way reprehensible? Another thing that’s striking is the low number of Prostitutes in France. The nukber is said to be 20.000, but I guess that does only include those who work the streets. I am afraid many French MPs will face legal trouble if the bill passes ;-) The entire thing hasn’t worked in Sweden and it will not work in France. The proposal is only designed to make France look better from the outside and it gives old ugly women the feeling that their husbands will no longer cheat on them. Trust me they will still do it no matter what.
2011-12-09 22:20:50 by merlu free
All this has come from Sweden, where feminists have leading position in society. Scandinavian women are used to visit countries like Greece, Tunisia,Marocco, and are paying for sexual relations with local teenages. I am sad for the poor Swedish guys who have not the same rights that the women.
2011-12-08 20:30:42 by Mark S
If the problem is human trafficking, maybe the solution is to ban human trafficking. You wouldn't ban housekeepers because they are also trafficked. Suppose you send your police to visit prostitutes and ask if they are being forced? If they say yes, you can offer them immediate protection (so they are safe from retribution), offer them asylum (so they are safe from deportation and retribution in their home country), and get their help to catch the traffickers. If you legalize brothels, then you make it that much less attractive for the traffickers. If you bring in women by force to work in your brothel, we know where to find you. I think the focus is on prostitutes because people have other reasons to disapprove of them, but don't want to state those reasons. If your real desire is not to have prostitution, then you should prosecute both parties to the transaction. You would not jail a drug buyer, but let the seller go free, even if the seller is being coerced by somebody else.
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