EWL News

France is paving the way towards a progressive Europe free from prostitution, says European Women’s Lobby

[Brussels, 5 December 2013] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) warmly welcomes the vote of the French Parliament yesterday, which adopted a law proposal aiming at abolishing the system of prostitution. After two years of debate, French parliamentarians decided to support a new legislation aiming at supporting prostituted persons and considering prostitution as an obstacle to gender equality and a violation of human rights and dignity.

The law will address all actors involved in the system of prostitution, in a comprehensive way. Persons in prostitution won’t be criminalized anymore and on the contrary, will be offered alternatives to exit the system of prostitution. The demand for prostitution is recognized as the main driver of the exploitation, and the purchase of sex will therefore be criminalized. The fight against all forms of procuring and trafficking is strengthened, highlighting the links between prostitution and trafficking. Finally, prevention and education actions will be implemented to raise awareness to the reality of prostitution as a form of violence.

“France is now joining Sweden, Norway and Iceland, whose successful and progressive policies on prostitution are based on the fundamental principles of equality between women and men, human dignity, solidarity and justice. We congratulate the French parliamentarians for their courageous stance against the system of prostitution which exploits the most vulnerable, perpetuates male domination and fuels trafficking in women”, says Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women’s Lobby.

Together with the 200 NGOs from all over Europe, which have signed the Brussels’ Call ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’, the EWL sees the French developments on prostitution as a sign that mentalities are evolving towards shared values of equality and dignity.

Debates are taking place in other European countries, and several are considering the Nordic model as the best way to implement gender equality, reduce violence against women, and tackle trafficking: the Irish Parliament issued a report recommending the criminalisation of the purchase of sex; the Cypriot Ombudswoman is pointing out to the links between prostitution and trafficking and the role of the demand for prostitution; the Finnish Justice Minister is supporting a full ban on purchasing sex, taking stock of the failure of his legislation to address trafficking when criminalizing only sex buyers from trafficked or exploited women.

“France is sending the clear message that 21st century societies are to be free from systems of prostitution. This is a unique moment for all the women still in prostitution and for all the survivors who have supported this move, and we want to pay tribute to their courage and strength”, says Pierrette Pape, Coordinator of EWL campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’.

The EWL also congratulates the French coalition of women’s organisations, Abolition 2012, which has played a key role in raising awareness on the reality of prostitution at all levels. The next step in France will be the debate in the Senate, and the EWL, together with the 200 signatories of the Brussels’ Call, calls on all senators to confirm the abolitionist stance taken by France yesterday.

Facts and figures on prostitution:


Prostitution is a form of violence against women:

  • • Between 80 and 95% of persons in prostitution have suffered some form of violence before entering the system of prostitution (rape, incest, pedophilia), 62% of women in prostitution report having been raped.
  • • 68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as victims of torture.
  • • According to Interpol, a pimp earns 110 000 euros per year per prostituted person.
  • • Nevada, where procuring is decriminalised, sees the highest rates of rape compared to all US states.
  • • For 10% of girls and 37% of boys interviewed in Denmark, it is normal to receive money or gifts in exchange of a blow job.

Prostitution and trafficking:

  • • Globally, women constitute 85% of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (prostitution).
  • • Globally, 79% of reported trafficking in human beings is for sexual exploitation (prostitution).
  • • In Europe, 62% of trafficking in human being is for sexual exploitation (prostitution). Women constitute 80% of victims of trafficking.
  • • According to the UN, trafficking in human beings is the second biggest source of illicit profits for criminals after drugs trade.


Prostitution in Sweden and the Netherlands:

  • • According to the Dutch Ministry of Justice’s study ‘Daalder’, there has been no significant improvement in the situation of persons in prostitution and the use of sedatives has increased.
  • • According to the same study, in the Netherlands, options for leaving the industry were in high demand, while only 6% of municipalities offer assistance.
  • • The Dutch National Police Force’s study on the sector of legalised prostitution found that between 50-90% of the women in licensed prostitution “work involuntarily”.
  • • In Sweden, the number of persons exploited in street prostitution has halved since 1999, while it tripled in Denmark and Norway for the same period.
  • • After ten years of implementation of the Swedish legislation, 70% of the population express full support for the law.
  • • In 1996, 13.6% of Swedish men said they had bought someone for prostitution purposes. In 2008, the figure had dropped to 7.8%.

For more information, interviews, background or visual materials, please contact Elvira Buijink, Communications and Media Officer, European Women’s Lobby; Tel: +32 2210 04 40; buijink@womenlobby.org, and see www.womenlobby.org.

Note to editors:

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 28 EU Member States and three of the candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2000 associations.

Sources :

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