EWL News

A French draft bill calls for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex

[Paris, 11 October 2013] On Tuesday 1st October, the socialist group of the French Parliament announced that it will table a proposal of law aiming at reinforcing the protection of prostituted persons and addressing the demand for prostitution. This bill proposal follows up on a new parliamentary report on prostitution, unveiled on 17 September 2013, and presenting 40 recommendations to abolish the system of prostitution.

The new proposal of law is the outcome of a parliamentary reflection of over 3 years, starting with a 2011 report entitled “Prostitution: the exigency of accountability. To put an end to the myth of the oldest profession in the world” ("Prostitution, l’exigence de responsabilité : en finir avec le mythe du plus vieux métier du monde"). The same year, a parliamentary resolution was adopted, reaffirming France’s abolitionist position on prostitution; the resolution presented proposals aiming at making sex buyers responsible for their acts and reinforcing the protection for victims of trafficking and procuring. Two years later, the Parliament’s delegation on women’s rights and gender equality adopted, with unanimity, a report on prostitution, calling for a strengthening of French policies to fight against the system of prostitution.

The public debate on prostitution was high in the media in the days preceding the tabling of the new law proposal. 50 politicians, from all political groups, co-signed a joint open letter, which has been published in the newspaper Le Monde, entitled “Prostitution; let’s mobilise for an abolitionist law!” ("Prostitution : mobilisons-nous pour une loi d’abolition !"). Parliamentarians called for a comprehensive policy on prostitution, and stated again that prostitution is part of the continuum of violence against women, and should be addressed as such. NGOs also made their voice heard, by issuing a press release signed by the 55 organizations members of the coalition Abolition 2012. Entitled "To reduce prostitution in France and engage society towards its victims: the principle is here, make way for the law" (“Faire reculer la prostitution en France et engager la société auprès de ses victimes : Le principe est acquis, place à la loi !”), the press release calls for an end to the impunity of sex buyers and more protection for prostituted persons, and for women and girls in general. A youth initiative has also been created, called “Youth for the abolition of prostitution”, gathering youth and women’s rights NGOs. They published an open letter in the newspaper Libération, calling themselves the “Generation Abolition of Prostitution”, and calling for abolitionist policies in order to free sexuality from any constraints, including economic ones.

The EWL had contributed to the public discussion, issuing a press release recalling that the European Parliament has also recognised prostitution to be a form of violence against women. Entitled "Abolition of prostitution: Procuring Europe totters, France is being waiting upon" ("Abolition de la prostitution : l’Europe proxénète vacille, la France est attendue !"), EWL press release calls on France to act against the system of prostitution and show the way towards an abolitionist Europe.

This week, 111 NGOs published an open letter to the French President, calling for an abolitionist law: "Abolition of the system of prostitution: now the law!" (Abolition du système prostitueur : maintenant, la loi !). NGOs from outside Europe expressed their support to the French developments, like for example the Québec NGO CLES.

If adopted, the new French law will allow France to join Sweden, Norway and Iceland in the struggle against prostitution, therefore addressing ways to also end trafficking in women and girls for prostitution. Women’s organisations strongly welcome such initiative, which at last recognises the urgency to address prostitution in order to reach real equality between women and men. The European Women’s Lobby warmly congratulates the French parliamentarians for their work and political courage, and hopes to see the law adopted by the end of the year, which would send a great signal of France’s progressive leadership on women’s rights.

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