News / Europe

    French Lawmakers Back New Prostitution Law

    Sex worker activists and prostitutes protest a proposal to scrap sanctions on soliciting and instead punish prostitutes' customers with fines in Paris, Nov. 29, 2013.
    Sex worker activists and prostitutes protest a proposal to scrap sanctions on soliciting and instead punish prostitutes' customers with fines in Paris, Nov. 29, 2013.
    Reuters
    The French lower house of parliament passed a reform of prostitution law on Wednesday imposing fines on clients, a shift to tougher rules which has split the country and angered some sex workers.

    Lawmakers voted 268 in favor and 138 against to give France some of the most restrictive legislation on prostitution in Europe - a radical switch away from the nation's traditionally tolerant attitude.

    Those seeking to buy sex will now face a 1,500 euro ($2,000) fine, while the act of soliciting itself will no longer be punished.

    Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who has championed the reform, argued that prostitution in any form is unacceptable and said the aim of President Francois Hollande's Socialist government was to suppress the trade altogether.

    Proponents of the reform point to rising human trafficking as a reason for tightening rules. Some 90 percent of France's estimated 20,000 to 40,000 prostitutes are victims of Nigerian, Chinese and Romanian trafficking networks, the government says.

    That is a jump from just over a decade ago when only one in five prostitutes were foreign and mafia rings were much less omnipresent.

    Yet the reform has exposed divisions in French society just months after Hollande's government faced down a series of giant street protests over legislation legalizing gay marriage.

    Fellow ministers including Interior Minister Manuel Valls have expressed reservations about being able to apply the law as it stands. Hollande's Green coalition allies voted against, as did the opposition center-right UMP members.

    Some prostitutes say the law, which must also pass through the Senate upper house for a vote early next year, will rob them of their livelihood.

    “Already, in the past two weeks we have felt the pinch,” said a woman calling herself Sarah, who works in the Bois de Boulogne, a center for prostitution on the outskirts of Paris.

    “The clients aren't coming... and the few clients that do come all ask me the same questions: 'Is the law going through? What are we going to do?”'

    Legislation in France lies somewhere between laws in the Netherlands and Germany, where registered sex workers pay taxes and receive health benefits, and Sweden, where clients are already targeted.

    But as France considers adopting a much tougher attitude, prostitution in Germany has become a heated political issue once again - 11 years after the country decriminalized prostitution and gave sex workers legal status that allowed them to get health insurance and pensions.

    You May Like

    Brexit Vote Triggers Increase in Racist Attacks

    Britain's decision to leave European Union seen by some as 'permission' to unleash anti-immigrant resentment

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    AIIB Takes Big Strides Amid Fears About China's Dominance

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says it is independent, but concerns persist; China holds 20.6 percent of bank's shares, others have less than 7.5 percent each

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Adrian
    December 07, 2013 1:32 AM
    Yet another country's fall for Sharia and radical feminism.

    by: winston1952 from: USA
    December 05, 2013 7:51 AM
    Why is prostitution against the law? Where is the crime when two adults agree to have sex in exchange for money? This isn’t trafficking, which isn’t a sex crime but is a human rights abuse. Those forced into sex workshould not be charged with prostitution but should be rescued from the traffickers. These laws allow too many dehumanize sex workers. If they aren't looked on as having the same rights as the rest of society then those who prey on women find easy targets in sex workers. This attitude needs to change we need to see sex workers as people with the same wants and needs and rights as the rest of society.

    There is a more important consideration than legalization. Today sex workers and their customers are marginalized and viewed through a distorted lens. They are dehumanized and as a consequence it is too easy to take advantage of or abuse them. We need to recognize they are members of our society with the same wants and needs as everyone. Many if not most add to society in a positive manner, paying taxes, raising families adding to the economy etc.

    Prostitution has been around forever and will be with us forever as well. We need to change our approach. Many escorts are in the business voluntarily and are contributing members of society. They pay taxes raise children and contribute to the economy. Yet they are forced to live outside of society. They live at risk of robbery assault rape (yes rape) and murder without recourse to protection under the law. This needs to change.
    In Response

    by: BubbetteOfTheNorth from: Canada
    December 07, 2013 1:48 AM
    I think I can offer SOME kind of answer to your question: why is prostitution criminalized. I think it's a paternalistic attempt to protect young women (after all, most prostitutes do start young) from doing something that will likely damage their souls/psyches, and put them in physically dangerous situations (STDs, rape and violence). This motive is similar to that behind laws which criminalize underage smoking, or cocaine use.
    The motive is not inherently dehumanizing, and may be quite compassionate. Anyone who has seen prostitution up close can tell you that it most often damages those women (or young men) who participate.
    BUT, in the end, criminalizing it does not in fact prevent young women from entering into those situations, and only further isolates them making them even more vulnerable to the lurking dangers.
    So let's separate the paternalism (which may be justified in spirit given the common outcomes), from the cost-benefit analysis of criminalization.
    Sometimes we have to recognize the good faith efforts of those who would like to protect us, and acknowledge the justification of their concern, while rejecting "the medicine" they offer, simply on the grounds that it does not help (it may in fact hurt).
    I think we can only have this conversation honestly if we first acknowledge the sad consequences of the job for so many sex workers. Dismissing them in favor of arguments about autonomy (e.g. "...two consenting adults...") ignores the authentic and compassionate rationale behind these laws.
    I agree they do more harm than good, but they are not without justification because prostitution is not without its costs, to those who do the work, and to the society who cares for them.
    It would be good to discuss these two things more honestly, admitting the harm of sex work, while also admitting the failure of criminalization.

    by: Helen Korhonen from: Finnland
    December 04, 2013 1:43 PM
    It is not feminism it is racism. French think: "They have to be offers of human trafficking because they are immigrants". "They are all gangsters".

    Women in Europe are also worried because men take more and more wives from other countries. Asian and African wives are more and more popular. The same women speak of human trafficking and bride trafficking.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmarki
    X
    John Owens
    June 26, 2016 2:04 PM
    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora