The new law, which would not prosecute prostitutes, would fine customers and require them to attend awareness classes on the harms of the sex trade.
Strass, the French sex workers union, is protesting a new law on prostitution that they call “repressive,” and which they say will expose sex workers to more even violence. The law, which was passed Wednesday, repeals a 2003 ban on solicitation by sex workers and mandates that customers be fined and “made to attend awareness classes on the harms of the sex trade.” Fines will increase from about $1,700 for a first offense to more than $4,250 for the second. Prostitutes will not be prosecuted.
Amnesty International supported Strass’s concerns in comments to the BBC, saying that laws against buying sex make it necessary for sex workers to take more risks to protect their buyers from the police. They said that there are reports of prostitutes being asked to visit the homes of their customers in order to avoid police, rather than meeting them in safer locations.
Rights group le Mouvement du Nid, which advocates against prostitution, strongly defends the legislation. In a statement they said that the new law will make it easier for a sex worker to file a legal complaint against a client, because it reverses criminal responsibility. They also claimed that the law will help to reduce human trafficking.
The bill was authored by Socialist MP Maud Olivier, who has made a personal crusade of the fight against prostitution. Her website states “Prostitution is violence,” and says, “This poorly-understood violence is alone in not being recognised as such in law.” Olivier also says the law will help authorities to tackle human trafficking, as well as pimping, and also protect victims who want to escape the sex trade.
Strass disagrees, accusing Olivier and other lawmakers of passing “essentially repressive” reform. However, other rights groups consider it a historic leap forward.
Northern Ireland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden have all passed similar laws against paying for sex. le Mouvement du Nid said in a statement that these countries have “already ended this historic injustice, which consists of punishing the victims of the system, while defending the impunity of those who impose sex through economic power.”
France 24 reported that critics of the law say it will “push prostitution further toward the Internet business model, making it harder to police.” Traditional prostitutes are already struggling to determine where the Internet fits into the business, as more and more people offer to work as intermediaries between clients and prostitutes via the web. A Paris prostitute named Mylene Just told France 24 that this is the way she wants to live her life, being free to work as a prostitute, even on the street. She said she does not want to be on the Internet.