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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs