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Protests as France debates prostitution bill

Charlotte Boitiaux/France 24

Supporters and opponents of a draft bill that would criminalise the clients of prostitutes demonstrated in Paris on Friday as French lawmakers debated the bill. The proposed legislation would introduce a 1,500 euro fine for paying for sex.

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France’s National Assembly began Friday to debate a bill that would lift a ban on soliciting and transfer responsibility to prostitutes’ clients on November 29, sparking what French newspapers have dubbed the “oldest debate in the world”.

The multi-partisan proposed legislation would introduce a 1,500 euro fine for paying for sex and a parliamentary majority will likely adopt it in the coming week.

Mediawatch: France debates prostitution

“Without the client, there is no prostitution ring, there is no ... trafficking of human beings. That’s the fight we’re waging,” said lawmaker Guy Geoffroy, one of the opposition conservative deputies who backs the draft law.

The government argues that some 90 percent of France's estimated 20,000 to 40,000 prostitutes are foreign victims of Nigerian, Chinese and Romanian human trafficking networks.

The proposed legislation includes support measures, such as benefits and relaxed immigration procedures for prostitutes willing to leave the profession.

Some conservative MPs have vowed to oppose the bill, and their supporters took to the streets of Paris to march near the National Assembly on Friday.

The Union of Sex Workers (STRASS) has also called for a protest against the reform, while feminist and prostitutes support groups will take part in a counter-demonstration.

Some charities such as Médecins du Monde have warned that criminalising clients would drive the sex trade further underground, thereby endangering the lives of prostitutes.

“We pay tax, we pay social security contributions. Isn’t there enough unemployment as it is not to put us out of business?" a Paris prostitute told Reuters.

Slideshow: Paris prostitution protest
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