After a two year battle, MPs have passed a law that now outlaws paying for sex in France, with a penalty of almost €4,000 for offenders—but unlike legislation in other countries like the U.S., the “offenders,” in this case are clients, not sex workers.
The bill, which was approved on April 6, was not only divisive among government officials (mainly those who identified as conservatives), but within the sex worker community in France itself.
As reported by the BBC:
“French MPs have passed a law that makes it illegal to pay for sex and imposes fines of up to €3,750 (£3,027, $4,274) for those buying sexual acts.
Those convicted would also have to attend classes to learn about the conditions faced by prostitutes.
It has taken more than two years to pass the controversial legislation because of differences between the two houses of parliament over the issue.”
Members of Strass, the French sex workers’ union, have deemed the bill “repressive,” according to France 24.
During the proceedings, roughly 60 protesters rallied outside France’s parliament building, wielding signs that proclaimed “prostitutes are angry,” “don’t touch our customers,” and “don’t liberate me, I’ll take care of myself.”
While many are up in arms over the new legislation, members of the French government have spoken in favor of it, lauding the regulations embedded within the new law as a way to combat human trafficking.
“The most important aspect of this law is to accompany prostitutes, give them identity papers because we know that 85% of prostitutes here are victims of trafficking,” said MP Maud Olivier, a member of the Socialist party who was one of the main forces behind the legislation, in an interview with the Associated Press.
The bill passed 64 to 12 in lower Parliament, with 577 members abstaining.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls lauded the legislation as “a major advance” in a tweet posted the same day the law was signed.
The newly-passed bill cancels out a previous law that allocated punitive measures on sex workers rather than clients.
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Image via Associated Press.