A repressive French law passed in 2016 that shifted the criminal responsibility for prostitution from the sellers to the buyers has come under a challenge in court by a group of French sex workers, backed by a consortium of non-profits and activist
groups. The law was supposedly intended to help sex workers but the law has made work as a prostitute more dangerous. The sex workers also say the law violates their sexual and commercial freedoms. The group of about 30 prostitutes and activists took
their cause to France's Constitutional Council last week.
France made the customers of prostitutes the criminals. Buying sex now carries a fine of about $1,700 for a first offense and up to $4,200 for repeats. Prostitution consumers who get caught
under the law must also attend a workshop to be 'educated' on the conditions of life for a sex worker.
But sex workers in France say that rather than protecting their safety, the law has driven their business farther into the shadows, and as a
result, put them in a higher degree of physical danger. They blame the law for the murder last August of Vanessa Campos, a 36-year-old Peruvian transgender sex worker who was killed in a dark, wooded area of the Bois de Boulogn by criminals attempting to
rob her client.
Girls are now forced to hide and promise their clients that the police won't find them, sex worker-turned-activist Giovanna Rincon told The Times.
The constitutional court is expected to hand down a decision on whether the
law is compatible with the French Constitution on February 1.
Update: French court rules that endangering sex workers is constitutional
The French Press Agency reported on Friday that the
Constitutional Council failed to be persuaded by the group of 30 sex workers and nine rights organizations, not only upholding the law but also claiming that it actually increased safety for prostitutes by depriving pimps of their profits.
Council ruled that the law fights against this activity and against the sexual exploitation of human beings, criminal activities founded on coercion and enslavement.
Under the law, a client of prostitutes can be fined up to $1,700 for a first
offense, with penalties hitting $4,200 for repeat patrons. French authorities are serious about enforcing the law, making about 2,800 arrests since the legislation passed about two-and-a-half years ago, according to a New York Times report.
The French authorities have reported that there have been 249 victims of France's new law criminalising the purchase of sex. The law has been in force for 6 months.
No doubt a good proportion of this tally have had their lives trashed, just so
that a few French feminists can enjoy feeing smug about their 'equality'.
While the maximum fine is € 1,500 or euro € 3,500 for repeat offenders, most of the 250 who admitted
to paying for sex were fined between € 300 and € 400.
Some 50 of the 250 fines handed out since April have been to clients in Narbonne, apparently all due to the fact the
local prosecutor has taken a keen interest in applying the law from day one. The local police chief explained that officers will normally pounce once the client has stopped by the roadside, made contact with the prostitute, and after she has climbed into
Most of those fined in Narbonne were over 50 years old and all quickly owned up, so as to avoid having letters sent to the family addresses.
Fines have also been dished out in the Bois de Vincennes near Paris and the Forest of
The French Senate has voted against a bill passed by the National Assembly in 2013 that intends to penalise the customers of sex workers, making them liable for fines of up to 1,500 euros for a first offence and 3,750 euros for repeated breaches.
Senators voted (190 to 117) against the bill. They have argued that many prostitutes' rights groups are against such a criminalisation of clients.
Sex workers and groups who have opposed the plan, say it can lead prostitutes to hide from police and go off the streets, exposing them to more violence and abuses.
The bill to punish prostitutes' clients must therefore now be discussed by
a conciliation committee to find a joint version for both Houses of Parliament. If not, the National Assembly, which proposed the bill, will have the last word.
The International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) has welcomed the withdrawal of the criminalisation of clients of sex workers from the law proposal that will be presented to the French Senate.
In the words of STRASS , the
French Union of Sex Workers:
the Senate Select Committee has taken the time to organise real hearings, to listen to all points of view, including those of national and international health and human rights
organisations and considered the evidence of the negative impact of the criminalisation of clients of sex workers. Above all, the Senate Select Committee has taken into account the voices of those first concerned, sex workers themselves.
This is a great victory for sex workers who have fought tirelessly against this law proposal not only in France but in every country where this dangerous approach has threatened our livelihood and our safety.
ICRSE hope that this victory in
France will inspire sex workers to keep fighting for their rights and for organisations and policy-makers supporting the failed Swedish Model to really consider the growing amount of evidence against it, to follow the steps of the French Senate Select
Committee and to abandon the criminalisation of clients in favour of the only human rights based approach to sex work: full decriminalisation.
A draft law that goes before the French parliament this week -- and which has a good chance of passing in some form -- will introduce a EUR1,500 (£1,250) fine, rising to EUR3,000 at the second offence, for prostitutes' customers. Paradoxically, the
proposed law would also make it easier for women, or men, to offer their bodies for sale on the streets. It would increase state funds to help prostitutes seek different lives. It would make it easier for foreign prostitutes to denounce traffickers and
remain legally in France.
Supporters say this is a long overdue attempt to end the hypocrisies and contradictions surrounding prostitution in France.
Opponents of the new law -- including several groups who represent the estimated 40,000
prostitutes in France -- say it will make paid-for sex less legally coherent and more dangerous. If clients are forced underground, prostitutes will be, too. They will, more than ever, be at the mercy of traffickers, pimps and violent clients.
draft law seems likely to pass the lower house, or National Assembly, but will be opposed in the upper house, or Senat. Most argument has focused on Article 16, which penalises clients. But the law would also make it easier for prostitutes to ply their
trade. It would scrap a 2003 law, that bans soliciting on the streets.
Presumably France doesn't have any incitement laws. How can women be allowed to offer, or even encourage, men to break the law by accepting that offer?
Paying for sex in France may soon become a criminal offence, according to a forthcoming bill whose details were made public this week.
The proposed legislation would also overturn a 2003 law that penalises prostitutes overtly offering their
services, rules that were intended to reduce the presence of sex workers in the streets but instead led prostitutes to dress down while plying their trade.
We are going to turn the law on its head, said gender extremist MP, Maud
Olivier, who authored a report that will be the basis of the bill:
Prostitutes are victims and should not be treated like criminals. The law is intended to reduce violence towards prostitutes and to get it into the
general mindset that paying for sexual services is not acceptable. We need to destroy the idea that prostitution is a happy trade.
The bill, which is due to be debated by the National Assembly (lower house) and the Senate starting in
November, sets out progressive fines of up to 1,500 euros for a first offence, to 7,500 euros and six months' imprisonment for repeat offenders.
The proposal does not have universal support, however, and organisations representing sex workers
claim it would push prostitution further underground and subject women to increased risks. AIDS advocacy group Act Up and French NGO Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) were among around 100 organisations who signed a petition against the
proposition, arguing that it would make prostitutes more vulnerable .
Manon , a Paris sex worker who is spokeswoman for the STRASS sex workers union , told FRANCE 24 the bill would do exactly the opposite of what it is designed to
Prostitutes will have to work more clandestinely to protect their clients, putting them at greater danger of violence and further away from sexual health services, she said.
also means a drop in the number of clients, making it harder for us to make a living. This in turn means that punters will be in a stronger position to pressure prostitutes into doing things they don't want to do, including having unprotected sex.
Soliciting sex could soon be criminalised, with jail sentences and hefty fines for offenders, if mean minded French lawmakers pass legislation that has been recommended by a parliamentary report.
The report recommends a EUR3,000 fine and up to six
months in jail for those who solicit sex. Prostitution is not illegal in France, but procuring or soliciting other people for sex is.
Penned by lawmakers Danielle Bousquet (Socialist Party) and Guy Geoffrey (ruling UMP), the report argues that,
Punishing clients would make them understand that they are engaged in a form of exploitation. It would reaffirm the principle of non-commercialisation of the human body and bury the myth that prostitution is simply the 'oldest trade in the world'
once and for all.
But Mistress Gilda, a spokesperson for the French prostitutes' union STRASS, said the law would push the sex trade further underground and would have a profoundly negative impact on thousands of women and men who work in the
sex trade in France. It would send prostitution even further to the fringes and put some of the most vulnerable people on the streets, under complete control of exploitative pimps.
The French government looks set to criminalise buying sex in a change to the law on prostitution. Under current plans, soliciting will remain a crime.
After parliament commissioned a report on prostitution, Social Affairs Minister Roselyne
Bachelot told a parliamentary select committee that she favoured such an approach, which is already used in Sweden.
There is no such thing as prostitution which is freely chosen and consenting, Bachelot claimed. The sale of sexual acts
means that women's bodies are made available, for men, independently of the wishes of those women.
In mid-April, the committee is to publish its conclusions, which could include a recommendation to change the law, but there would be no vote, or
implementation of any such law, before 2012.
MPs are considering introducing fines for clients, and even prison sentences.
Claire Quidet of the Mouvement du Nid, which wants prostitution outlawed said society must impose limits, you do
not buy a sex act.
But Isabelle Schweiger of sex-workers' union Strass is worried that the proposed change would merely push prostitution underground.
Some groups want the 2003 law which prohibits soliciting for sex, to be abolished.
Bachelot does not intend to repeal the law, but a government source explained that it will almost certainly be dropped next year, to conform with European Union directives on the issue of double jeopardy.