Prostitutes and sex workers in masks protested outside the French parliament on Friday, while legislators debated a bill against prostitution and sex trafficking inside.
The bill is aimed at decriminalising the estimated 40,000 prostitutes in France, however it would introduce a 1,500 euro fine for sex customers.
Nicole Améline is Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She told euronews:“If we want to act, what do we do? Or course we need to fight against the [trafficking] networks because it is the most important thing but we need to make people responsible, and this bill is making people responsible. Is it normal to buy a woman’s body?”
Dalila, an Argentinean sex worker who has been offering her services in Paris for the last eight years, works without a pimp. She says her living conditions have deteriorated in the last few years and that her clients will likely disappear for fear of being handed a stiff fine. She says the only option for her would be to leave France to find work elsewhere.
“I will be forced to migrate to another country, simple as that. The only solution for me is to go abroad. And that is what everyone will do,” she said.
While buying and selling sex for money is not banned in France, the act of soliciting is illegal, as is pimping.
Thierry, a former client of prostitution who joined sex workers to demonstrate against the bill, said such a law would mean the end of prostitution, a critical mistake according to him.
“It’s a stupid law, only the socialists can have that idea, to ban prostitution. I think it’s really stupid. It’s a necessary evil. Prostitution is a safety valve. It can prevent rape, murders, sexual assaults, and, why not, divorce. There is also a whole part of the population which has no sex life and what would they do without prostitutes?” he asked.
Supporters of the draft law argue that it could reduce sex trafficking and empower prostitutes.
But opponents say it would put sex workers in danger, as clients would go to greater lengths to avoid being arrested.
Legislation in France currently 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.
President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government backs the bill. The Socialist-led Assembly is set to vote on it around December 4.