The French government has unveiled a plan to tackle the prostitution of minors, describing it as a "worrying" and "growing" issue.
Secretary of State for Children Adrien Taquet told a press conference on Tuesday that at least 7,000 to 10,000 children are affected. He also said that the number is "constantly increasing."
"Half of them — mostly girls, but also boys — enter prostitution at 14. This concerns all social backgrounds," Taquet said.
The €14 million plan will be deployed throughout 2021 and 2022.
In a bid to support the affected families when it comes to their child, the government will set up "a single listening platform" and intends to create a country-wide network with specialised associations.
A lot of resources will go towards "raising awareness among children themselves at school and training all professionals in contact with them, the educational community, social workers, police forces and gendarmerie," Taquet explained.
The aim is to be better at spotting the "faint signals" that a young person is in the process of falling into prostitution, which include a change in behaviour, dropping out of school, isolation, or running away.
Jennifer Pailhé, the mother of a young girl who fell into prostitution at 14 told reporters at the press conference that she was "confronted with the incomprehension of the gendarmes."
"If she went there, it was because she was consenting -- they did not understand the phenomenon of control. They thought she was [participating] voluntarily," she added.
Social workers are to be given more resources to carry out "digital marauding" on social networks to spot victims who post ads.
The government also wants to put pressure on flat rental platforms, as meetings are increasingly taking place in rented-out spaces.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the French Presidency of the European Union — taking place during the first six months of 2022 — will present measures to the rest of the bloc to force rental platforms to respond to investigations concerning the "trafficking or pimping of minors".
"Rental platforms such as Airbnb must alert [a host] to the risks that his or her flat may give rise to prostitutional behaviour, and make use of algorithms to detect clients who behave in a suspicious manner," Tacquet said.
The government also intends to "strengthen the capacities of investigators under pseudonyms" and develop "investigations into cyber-pimping".
Armelle Le Bigot-Macaux, president of the ACPE association fighting against child prostitution welcomed the announcements as a "real step forward".
"It is the first time I have the feeling that there is a political will to fight against the prostitution of minors," she said.