More than 60 years after Paris shut its famed maisons closes, or brothels, an MP from President Sarkozy's UMP party is campaigning to legalise them again.
Chantal Brunel, who was appointed last month to head the national watchdog on sexual
equality, is arguing that crime would be cut and sex workers would benefit from sexual services centres similar to those run by most of France's neighbours.
A national poll by the CSA agency found that 59% of the French public approved the
reopening of the regulated brothels that were a fixture of French life and culture until they were abolished in 1946. The proposal was supported by 70% of men and 49% of women. Only 13% of women were opposed, with 38% undecided, according to the poll for
Le Parisien newspaper.
The idea is not to go back to the situation before 1946. I propose that we should consider the creation of places where the purchase of sexual services would be possible with medical, legal and financial protection, Ms Brunel said. Her campaign is outlined in a book to be published this month and comes after controversial results from a previous attempt to curb prostitution.
A tough law introduced by Sarkozy in 2002, when he was Interior Minister, created an offence of passive soliciting , allowing police to charge any woman deemed by her appearance to be seeking custom in public, even if she makes no approach
to potential clients.
The Sarkozy law has resulted in the removal of prostitutes from the boulevards of Paris and other towns, driving them to more dangerous back streets, parks and on to the internet, campaigners say.
Ms Brunel is
part of a working group at the Interior Ministry that is assessing the impact of the law and looking at policies among France's neighbours. Her proposal has yet to elicit a response from the Government.
A French lawmaker wants to reopen brothels, outlawed in France since 1946, in order to protect prostitutes from predatory pimps and exploitation. But the sex workers say no thanks.
All of the prostitutes are against the reopening of the
brothels, said Janine Mossuz-Lavau, a sociologist and expert on sexuality and prostitution.
A 2003 law introduced by then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, which made passive public solicitation a punishable crime, is partly to blame for the
impasse. Criminalizing activities around prostitution, which itself is legal for anyone over 18, sent workers underground to massage parlors and bars, but also away from the city centers, to peripheral areas, the woods and the Internet. It rendered
exercising this profession much more dangerous since workers found themselves isolated, Mossuz-Lavau said.
Almost seven years to the day that parliament adopted that law in March 2003, Chantal Brunel, a member of Sarkozy's UMP party who had
voted for it, announced she wants to change the government's response to prostitution. She envisions reopening the brothels as spaces where workers would be safe from human trafficking and violence, treated with dignity and would even receive medical
care. An estimated 59 percent of French citizens support the idea, according to a poll released last month.
But the sex workers' union, which represents more than 250 prostitutes in France, is adamantly opposed to government meddling in its
business and would rather maintain as much independence over its members' livelihoods as possible.
Tiphaine Besnard, a union spokeswoman said: Our elected officials ... are doomed to repeat the same failures if they do not consult the people
who live prostitution daily and know all the consequences of their policies, the union said in a March press release. We alone possess the expertise on our lives.
Among the reasons the union cites for opposing the government's proposal
is the fear that brothel keepers who want to receive a cut of their proceeds would exploit the workers. Plus, the union argues, mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases could lead to discriminatory policies that might bar those infected from
working. Instances of HIV in the pornography industry has led politicians to ask if they should be doing more to police that industry -- a scenario prostitutes would like to avoid. They are also against a system that might divide workers into camps of
regular brothel workers and others who refuse to work within that system.
French lawmakers will next week test France's long history of liberal attitudes toward sex by introducing a bill outlawing prostitution.
Lawmakers from all parties represented in the National Assembly, France's lower house, will on Tuesday present
the bill to outlaw prostitution, said Guy Geoffroy of the ruling UMP party.
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.
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.
The bill follows recommendations from a cross-party
parliamentary commission that said criminalisation 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 $4,040 fine on clients of prostitutes.
An estimated 20,000 people work as prostitutes in France.
France's parliament has backed a proposal to make payment for sex a crime punishable by fines and prison.
The National Assembly approved by a show of hands a cross-party, non-binding resolution which is due to be followed by a bill.
Six-month prison sentences and fines of 3,000 Euros (
£ 2,580) are envisaged for customers of prostitutes.
Some campaigners reject the bill, advocating prostitutes' rights instead.
Around 20,000 people are believed to be working as prostitutes in France.
Guy Geoffroy, an MP from the ruling UMP party who sits on the commission, said France's political parties had reached a consensus on the issue because it was a matter of republican ethics . Nine out of 10 prostitutes were victims of
trafficking, he ludicrously claimed. From now on prostitution is regarded from the point of view of violence against women and that has become unacceptable for everyone, Geoffroy added.
Comment: Monsieur Geoffroy le
9th December 2011. From Alan
If you're looking for words to describe the absurd M. Geoffroy, twat can usefully be translated as con .
Hundreds of people including sex workers protested in Paris on Saturday against plans to make paying for sex illegal, criticising a minister's mean minded plan as counter-productive.
France's minister for women's rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem,
said she wanted to make prostitution disappear by punishing those who pay for sex, rather than the prostitutes themselves. She was backed by prominent feminists and allies in government, but her remarks unleashed a hail of criticism from sex workers'
unions, which argued that punishing clients would drive business underground, endangering prostitutes.
At Place Pigalle, one of Paris' red-light districts, dozens of sex workers chanted pro-prostitution slogans through loudspeakers and waved signs
that read Penalised clients = murdered prostitutes and Sex work is work too .
Morgane Mertreuil, head of the Strass sex workers' union, told Reuters TV:
Before making public statements, she
(Vallaud-Belkacem) needs to do her homework, to find out about the reality of prostitution
The struggle against forced labour is not incompatible with the idea of giving rights to people who do this job with consent.
Some of France's leading intellectuals have poured scorn on the government's goal of eradicating prostitution.
Writing in Thursday's edition of the weekly political magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, a collection of academics, artists and writers
suggest efforts to get rid of the world's oldest profession are bound to fail and question whether the Socialist administration should even be trying.
The intellectuals said any move to liberate women from sexual slavery or the clutches of
organised crime would be welcome. But they argued that:
talk of abolishing prostitution was based on two debatable assumptions: that charging for sex is an affront to women's dignity and that all prostitutes are all
victims of their bastard clients. A women who prostitutes herself, whether she does so occasionally or full-time, is not necessarily a victim of male oppression.
Among the signatories to the article were philosopher Elisabeth
Badinter, writer Regine Desforges and film-maker Claude Lanzmann.
French sex workers are hopeful of being able to return to French city centres in their traditional attire after President Hollande's government moved to lift restrictions that forced many to work in jeans and anoraks.
In the latest French move
over the world's oldest profession, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the minister for women's rights, said the Head of State would repeal a ten-year-old law designed to curb prostitution in France.
The announcement represented a notable victory for French
call-girl unions, who demonstrated in Paris over the weekend as part of their campaign against what they describe as police harassment.
However, lest people celebrate to quickly, the Government seems to be seeking a replacement which could easily
be a lot worse.
Minister of Women's Rights Najat Belkacem-Vallaud said Saturday in Le Parisien that the campaign pledge of Francois Hollande on the repeal of this offense would be honoured...But...
A proposal for
comprehensive law on prostitution and trafficking should be developed by the fall, she said, adding that penalizing the client was an avenue among others.
In the meantime Senator Esther Benbassa has filed a bill to
repeal the offense of soliciting, which will be debated in the Senate on March 28.
Several high-profile male journalists, commentators and actors have supported a magazine petition demanding the right to visit sex-workers.
The petition, styled along the lines of a famous 1971 feminist appeal to legalise abortion lead by
Simone de Beauvoir, was aimed at countering the government's proposals to criminalise anyone who pays for sex in France.
The French parliament will soon debate Socialist proposals to make it illegal to pay for sex, meaning anyone who buys sex from
any kind of sex-worker would face heavy fines .
The men's petition in the November issue of the magazine Causeur was signed by figures including the novelist and editor Frederic Beigbeder, several journalists and columnists, comedians, actors and
the lawyer Richard Malka, who has defended clients including the former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The petition stated some of us have gone, go, or will go to prostitutes -- and we are not even ashamed . They added everyone should be
free to sell their charms, and even to love doing it.
But feminists and the government have predictably been outraged at what they claim as the hijacking of the feminist writer de Beauvoir's 1971 abortion manifesto in which 343 famous women,
including Catherine Deneuve and Jeanne Moreau, admitted having had an abortion, something which left them liable for arrest. That petition, which the media later dubbed the manifesto of the 343 salopes -- sluts or bitches -- helped lead to the
legalisation of abortion in France.
The French parliament has backed part of a bill that imposes a 1,500 euro fine on anyone paying for sex.
Protests for and against the bill took place outside the National Assembly in Paris as the debate took place.
MPs voted for the fine in a
show of hands late on Friday night although the full text of the bill - which contains 20 articles - will be put to the vote on 4 December.
Under the new provision, repeat offenders risk a fine of 3,750 euros. Alternatively, they can attend a
course to make them aware of the risks involved in the sale of sex. One article aims to decriminalise France's estimated 40,000 prostitutes by scrapping a 2003 law that bans soliciting on the streets. The law would instead target the customers.
Only about 30 members of the National Assembly were present when the debate began on Friday afternoon.
The French Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l'Homme (CNCDH) has released its opinion on the proposals for amending the country's sex work laws. The CNCDH includes representatives from many of the country's major human rights NGOs including
Inter-LGBT , Amnesty International and the Human Rights League . The national sex workers union, STRASS (Syndicat du Travail Sexuel), along with other organisations working in the field of sex worker rights and HIV prevention have welcomed the position
taken by the Commission. The organisations are particularly supportive of the Commission's comments on the laws against passive soliciting, which are currently in place in France, and the proposal to introduce laws criminalising the clients of sex
France introduced a passive soliciting law in 2003, which made it illegal simply to look like a sex worker in locations known for prostitution. The CNCDH was firm in its criticism of the passive solicitation laws. It argued that
the law has had a detrimental effect on the health of sex workers and their working conditions. Forcing sex workers to effectively become invisible to avoid arrest and prosecution has increased their isolation and left them more vulnerable to
violence. STRASS continues to fight against the passive solicitation laws and demands that it be repealed immediately.
The CNCDH is also critical of the proposals to introduce laws criminalising the clients of sex workers. The CNCDH argues that
criminalising clients will force sex workers to work from more remote areas, their ability to negotiate with clients will be reduced and given the potential reduction in client numbers their ability to refuse clients may also be compromised. The CNCDH
also points out that criminalising clients will make it more difficult for health and social support organisations to offer services to sex workers given the move to more isolated working spaces. All of these factors, according to the CNCDH, will have a
serous impact on the health and rights of sex workers and make them more vulnerable to violence.
The proposed law amending France's prostitution laws (to repeal passive solicitation and introduce the criminalisation of clients) passed its reading
in the National Assmebly in December 2013 and is currently in the Senate where it has not yet been debated or voted on. The CNCDH points out that there is nothing in the proposed Bill, which is designed to improve or further the rights of sex workers in
France. The Commission is critical of this failure and notes that France should not delay further in supporting sex workers and ensuring they have effective access to rights.
The Commission is also careful to distinguish between sex work and
trafficking in human beings, which are often conflated in French policy and discourse. The CNCDH argues that any discussion or policy on human trafficking must be extended to all forms of economic exploitation and that preventing trafficking should not
be used simply as a cover for criminalising sex work.
Women in skimpy outfits and high heels could be arrested under new French laws that make it illegal to simply look like a prostitute in public.
France is set to bring in a repressive new anti-vice law that makes passive soliciting by
appearing to be offering sex for sale illegal. It is expected that prostitutes will be forced to wear casual clothing like jeans and trainers to get around the rules. The law will outlaw the act of publicly soliciting another person for paid sex, by
any means, including passive behaviour .
But French sex workers' union Strass see the law as a huge step backwards . Spokesman Chloe Navarro said:
It is making criminals of women for how they dress,
and victimising prostitutes for doing their job and aggravating their working conditions.
Lawmakers in France's upper house the Senate will vote on the law next week.
France's upper house of parliament has rejected a draft law penalising people paying for sex via prostitution.
In December 2013, the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, approved legislation making clients of prostitutes liable for a fine
of 1,500 euros ($1,620) for a first offence and double that thereafter.
But by a large majority, the opposition-dominated Senate reversed the National Assembly's proposal, scrapping the fines for prostitutes' clients and also dropping plans to
repeal a law that made soliciting an offence in 2003.
The latest legislation had been fiercely opposed by sex workers, who said it would drive prostitution further underground and make them vulnerable to abuse.
Hundreds of prostitutes took
to the streets of Paris on Saturday to protest against the proposed law.
Prostitution is legal in France and there are an estimated 30,000 sex workers in the country, more than 80% of whom come from abroad. But since 2003 offering sex for sale has
been against the law.
The National Assembly has the last word on the issue and is likely to revert to the original plan of penalising clients.
French Lawmakers voted in favor of changes to a proposed bill on the country's prostitution laws, approving the criminalisation of people who pay for sex. The same measure was previously removed from the bill in March by the Conservative controlled
With the bill returning to its repressive original version, senators will once again discuss the matter. In the case of an impasse, the lower chamber will have the final word on the proposed law.
According to a Nest Movement report
released in May, between 30,000 and 44,000 people work in France's prostitution industry full time, with part time sex work being much more difficult to evaluate. Only 30 percent of those in the industry work in the streets, while 62 percent engage
customers online and 8 percent through hostess bars or massage parlors.
Sex workers have been assembling in Paris and across France to protest the proposed criminalisation of their clients.
Late last month, sex workers from eight different countries--including countries where clients are criminalised, such as Sweden,
Norway and Northern Ireland--gathered in Paris' Human Rights Square alongside NSWP member group STRASS and the migrant Chinese sex worker group, Steel Roses to commemorate International Sex Worker Day and the 40-year anniversary of the occupation of the
Saint-Nizier church in Lyon, as well as to protest the proposed criminalisation bill, which will be discussed on the 12th of June in a second reading in the Assembly.
After 40 years of activism, the situation has not improved, STRASS' Thierry
Schaffauser told Liberation. Punishing clients will exacerbate the situation, pushing sex workers into more precarious situations, he said. Pye Jakobsson told the press that in Sweden, where clients have been criminalised since 1999, sex workers are even
Sex workers in France have been fighting attempts to criminalise their clients for years. The issue was first discussed in the National Assembly in December 2011 when a non-binding resolution was adopted supporting the
introduction of the Swedish model. This was later followed by the introduction of a formal Bill by the ruling French Socialist Party.
The Bill proposed to introduce fines for anyone caught paying for or soliciting commercial sexual services
and was passed by the Assembly in December 2013. The bill then went to the Senate but was first considered by a Committee, which removed the clause containing the provisions to criminalise clients in July 2014 . However the proposal in now back on the
table with a bill due to be discussed in the Assembly on the 12th of June.
In Paris, the Chinese sex workers are particularly vulnerable because they can not speak the language, are often undocumented and victims of police harassment, which
prevents them from reporting if they are attacked by a client, said Ajing, President of Steel Roses.
The French parliament is set to rubber stamp a nasty new law to endanger sex workers and criminalise their customers
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. Under the plan, customers will be fined up to 1,500 euro and up to 3,750 euro for repeat offenders. Presumably France does not have the concept of incitement to commit a crime.
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 sex workers, 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.
The second measure in the bill will repeal of the law that made passive soliciting illegal, ie dressing to attract customers. This
measure has been largely welcomed by all sides.
These new bodies that will come under the authority of the council in each of France's Apartements will be tasked with coordinating action to help sex workers and to tackle trafficking.
France is to make it illegal to pay for sex after MPs approved new legislation on prostitution following more than two years of rows and opposition by senators.
Under the new law, anyone caught purchasing an act from a
sex worker will be fined and required to attend classes on the harms of prostitution.
There would be a 1,500 euro (£1,200) fine for a first offence, rising to 3,750 euros for a second, which would also be put on the person's criminal record. The
victim would be forced to attend classes highlighting the supposed harms of prostitution.
The law was passed by 64 votes to 12 with many MPs absent.
The French union of sex workers are protesting against the repressive bill that imposes fines on clients paying for sex.
Sex workers in France expressed their dismay protesting outside the National Assembly on 6 April. According to the
union of sex workers STRASS, the law will make the nearly 30,000 sex workers in France more vulnerable.