French stars petition against criminalising prostitution


Iconic actress Catherine Deneuve has signed a petition, along with scores of other French celebrities, condemning government plans to punish clients of sex workers. They argue that the law will only drive the industry further underground.


Sixty French celebrities, including iconic actress Catherine Deneuve who herself played a prostitute in cult film ‘Belle de jour’, have signed a petition to protest against government plans to impose fines on people paying for sex.

The stars argue that the proposed legislation will only serve to push the sex trade further underground.

A proposed anti-prostitution law, due to be debated in the National Assembly at the end of November, seeks to penalise the clients.

The law, which aims to phase out prostitution in France, would impose a 1,500-euro fine on those paying for sex, and double the penalty if they repeat the offence.

The petition is the latest in a series of high-profile campaigns to stop the government cracking down on the industry.

It calls for “a real debate without ideological prejudice” on the sex trade, amid scepticism of the government’s ambition to “eradicate prostitution”.

"Without supporting or promoting prostitution, we reject the penalisation of those who prostitute themselves and those who seek their services," read the petition published in French media on Saturday.

Antoine, a veteran French singer, highlighted to AFP that the signatories, "agree that the government should fight against forced prostitution".

Violence against prostitutes

Speaking to Le Point magazine, Antoine also said there was "no link" between this petition and a controversial manifesto which provoked outrage in October when it declared: "Hands off my whore."

"We consider that everyone has the right to freely sell their charms – and even to enjoy doing so," the manifesto said, in comments that were widely condemned.

According to a TNS Sofres poll published at the end of October, only 20 percent of French people support the government’s move to crack down on people paying for sex.

There are an estimated 40,000 sex workers in France, of whom 85 percent are women and 90 percent are migrants, according to a report compiled by Socialist lawmaker Maud Olivier.

“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," Olivier said in September. "We need to destroy the idea that prostitution is a happy trade.”

Under current laws, prostitution itself is legal in France, but soliciting, pimping, and underage prostitution are prohibited.

A number of countries, including Iceland, Norway and Sweden also have laws that criminalise the act of paying for sex.

(FRANCE24 with wires)

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