EWL News

EWL brings support and a European dimension to the French mobilisation against the system of prostitution

(Paris, 16 April 2013) Exactly 67 years after the law banning brothels in France (13 April 1946), the 54 organisations of the Abolition 2012 coalition organised a large event on 13 April aiming to mobilising French society and politicians to obtain a comprehensive policy framework for abolishing the system of prostitution. More than 500 participants, from all sectors of society gathered to discuss ways forward to put an end prostitution, this most pervasive violation of women’s rights.

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) was invited to present an overview of the European dynamics on the issue. EWL Policy Officer and Project Coordinator Pierrette Pape expressed the support of the EWL and shared the feelings and expectations of many EWL members with regard to French developments on prostitution. The EWL campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’ has been running for more than two years, with events in several EU Member States that French NGOs and politicians have been regularly invited to.
Co-rapporteurs on the French Parliament report on prostitution, Ms Bousquet and Mr Geoffroy, have been invited to Luxembourg and met with the Minister for Equality; parliamentarian Ségolène Neuville presented the developments in France in Spain; representatives of French NGOs have explained the coalition’s work in Bulgaria and in Belgium. In countries where the EWL and its members have succeeded in provoking a debate on prostitution, French abolitionist positioning has inspired other national NGOs and politicians.

At European level, Pierrette Pape explained that the abolitionist perspective has gained political attention: more than 40 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) support the EWL campaign. The EWL together with Mouvement du Nid and Fondation Scelles co-organised a European conference last December, where the French Minister for Women’s Rights was represented. Several EU Member States are seriously considering the Swedish abolitionist model, and would like to see France take the first concrete steps to adopt this too.

Pierrette Pape shared the statements of two MEPs, who sent their support to the event, but were unfortunately were not able to attend:

  • French MEP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Greens), member of the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights: “As an MEP, I want to highlight how much the adoption by France of an abolitionist law would be a strong signal, a weighted argument in a Europe which is divided on the issue, inside each political group. We are at a turning point: we have to continue to mobilise and not lose this unique opportunity”.
  • Swedish MEP Mikael Gustafsson (GUE), chair of the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights: “I want us to speak about how we can address men’s behavior. It is because men have the right to buy women and girls for sexual services that we have growing prostitution markets. If there were no demand, there would be no grounds for abuse. Therefore, I want prostitution policies across EU countries and globally to penalize the buying of sexual services. I know we can change men’s behaviour through this choice of policy action, because it has been done in Sweden, Norway and Iceland very successfully already.”

Then, Kajsa Ekis Ekman, a Swedish journalist, whose most recent book has just been published in French (“Varat och varan” – “L’être et la marchandise”), explained the values and principles supporting the Swedish model criminalizing the purchase of sex, and stressed on the need to have a comprehensive policy, addressing in particular the following three issues: unconditional help for all people in prostitution, not only for the ones who want to exit (all services, not only exit programs, should be based on the needs and desires of the people who use them), training of the police and justice, education and awareness raising campaigns. She called on France to have the courage to act against this violation of women’s rights, and to pave the way forward for Europe.

Pierrette Pape brought the European moment of the event to a conclusion by recalling that 200 organisations from all over Europe have signed the Brussels’ Call ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’, which supports the abolitionist perspective on prostitution and calls for comprehensive and concrete action. NGOs from Argentina and Canada are also joining this abolitionist movement, which very much expects France to join the group of countries affirming that women’s bodies are not for sale.

Watch the videos of the event, including the European moment, here.

Kajsa Ekis Ekman and Pierrette Pape :

Pierrette Pape reading the support messages of MEPs Kiil-Nielsen and Gustafsson:

3 years of mobilisation in French for the abolition of prostitution: