• France's news in English
What you need to know about France’s new prostitution law
Femen and other womens' groups protest in favour of the new law. Photo: AFP

What you need to know about France’s new prostitution law

The Local · 6 Apr 2016, 12:19

Published: 06 Apr 2016 12:19 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

1.       Fining clients

The stand-out measure from the bill and the one that has caused the most controversy is the law that will see clients fined if they are caught paying for sex.

By making the clients rather than the prostitutes the guilty party the reform will “turn the current law on its head,” according to French Socialist MP Maud Olivier, who has been the driving force behind the change.

Under the plan, clients will be fined up to €1,500 and up to €3,750 for repeat offenders.

It brings France into line with Sweden, which has had the same law in place since 1999. Some claim it has helped cut prostitution by half in the Nordic country, whereas critics claim it has simply pushed it out of sight of authorities, which is also the fear among sex workers unions in France.

A period of grace will also be introduced so clients will not immediately be fined, but they will be expected to take heed of the new law.

The measure has not only been criticised by prostitutes, who fear they will become victim to yet more “violence, stigmatization and poverty” but also by police, charities and rights groups, who doubt it will have the desired impact in reducing prostitution.

2.          Awareness classes

One of the new measures that has caught the eye is that those people caught paying for sex, will not just face steep fines, but will also be forced to attend classes highlighting the harms of prostitution and how sex workers are often victims of trafficking and forced into working on the streets.

The aim is to make the clients more aware in the hope it dissuades them from paying for sex.

3.       Repeal of the ban on passive soliciting

The second measure in the bill that aims at “shifting the balance of power” is the repeal of the law that made passive soliciting illegal.

This law had been brought in back in 2003 under ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy which saw prostitutes being fined if guilty of soliciting for sex. This had the impact of pushing prostitutes into out of town areas and forced them to dress a little more discreetly to avoid detection.

Repealing this law is aimed at reinforcing the notion that sex workers are victims and not criminals. It also allows prostitutes to act as witnesses in certain crimes without fear of being charged with an offense.

This measure has been largely welcomed by all sides.

4.      Help offered

The new bill will make it a right for all victims of prostitution to be able to benefit from protection and assistance.

A programme will be set up to help prostitutes get out of the profession and €4.8 million will put set aside by the state to help prevent prostitution and offer social and professional support for sex workers.

The move, although welcomed, has also been criticised by sex worker unions who believe €4.8million will be stretched too far and in the end mean the country’s 40,000 prostitutes will not receive any effective life changing aid.

Story continues below…

5.       Residence permits for foreigners

France want to tackle the issue of the number of foreign prostitutes (Up to 80 percent of the 40,000 estimated sex workers) working in the country – most of whom are either from eastern Europe or Africa.

In a bid to help them escape the trade some will offered six month residency permits if they accept to take “the exit programme”.

Strass, the main sex workers union in France has blasted the measure as "blackmail".

6..       New body created in local authorities

These new bodies that will come under the authority of the council in each of France’s départements will be tasked with coordinating action to help prostitutes and to tackle trafficking. Associations backing the new believe the creation of these new bodies will help create a “territorial mesh” that will help in the application of the new law.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Is Marks & Spencer to close Champs-Elysées store?
Photo: AFP

Is it goodbye to crumpets, jam, and English biscuits?

After Calais, France faces growing migrant crisis in Paris
Photo: AFP

While all the focus has been on the closure of the Jungle in Calais, France must deal with the thousands of migrants sleeping rough in Paris. And their numbers are growing.

Restaurant boss suspected of kidnapping Cannes millionaire
The Nice residence of the president of Cannes' Grand Hotel, Jacqueline Veyrac. Photo: AFP

A restaurant owner 'harbouring a grudge', apparently.

Le Thought du Jour
Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays
Photo: AFP

The UK might have guaranteed public holidays, but France has "les ponts".

What's on in France: Top things to do in November
Don't miss the chocolate fashion show in Lyon. Photo: Salon du chocolat

The autumn is in full swing in France, and there's plenty to do.

What Paris 'squalor pit' Gare du Nord will look like in future
All photos: Wilmotte et Assoicés

IN PICTURES: The universally accepted 'squalor pit of Europe' is finally getting a facelift.

Halloween: The ten spookiest spots in Paris
Is there really a ghost on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower? Photo: AFP

Read at your own peril.

Halloween holiday in France: Traffic nightmares and sun!
Photo: AFP

But it's great news for the country's beleaguered tourism industry.

French MPs vote to make Airbnb 'professionals' pay tax
Photo: AFP

Do you make a lot of money through Airbnb in France? You'll have to pay a share to the taxman in future.

France and Britain accused of abandoning Calais minors
Photo: AFP

Scores of young migrants are forced to sleep rough for a second night.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
How speaking French can really mess up your English
The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
jobs available