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Sex clients could be fined, jailed under proposed law

Soliciting sex could soon be criminalised, with jail sentences and hefty fines for offenders, if French lawmakers pass legislation that has been recommended by a parliamentary report published on Wednesday.


An association of French prostitutes has slammed a parliamentary report recommending that paying for sex should be criminalised.

Published on Wednesday, the report recommends a €3,000 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.”

The new proposals would help demystify the trade, say the authors. “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.”

‘Pimps would be the only winners’

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,” she told FRANCE 24.

“Prostitution is not going to vanish. And these pimps would be the only winners.”

Until 1946, Paris had a flourishing sex industry based around a number of established brothels, or maisons closes, which benefitted particularly from the patronage of the occupying German army during World War II.

A 1946 law closed the estimated 1,400 brothels across France, ending a system that had regulated prostitution in the country since 1804.

France became officially “abolitionist” in 1960, when it signed the 1949 UN Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking and the Exploitation of Prostitution.

In 2003, then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law banning “passive solicitation”, a vague term aimed at curbing a manner of “dress and attitude” that advertises sexual services.

‘We want to pay our taxes’

If a law to criminalise sex clients is passed, France would join Norway, Iceland and Sweden, where clients face a fine of six months’ pay and six months in jail.

But in Germany, sex workers get the same state benefits as other taxpayers – a system that Mistress Gilda said would be welcomed by the prostitutes working in France.

“We want to pay our taxes and we want to contribute to the social security system,” she said. “There is no reason why we should not have the same status as an artisan, a taxi driver or a freelance journalist.”


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