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Historical day for women’s rights: France chooses the abolition of the system of prostitution!

[Brussels, 6 April 2016] [Version française ici] The vote of the French National Assembly today opens a new page in the history of victories for humanist and feminist associations: by adopting the law aiming to reinforce the fight against the system of prostitution and to support persons in prostitution, France reaffirms essential values for equality between women and men, dignity and solidarity. And positions itself on the side of prostituted persons, by recognizing the system which exploits them as a form of violence and an obstacle to human dignity.

“Today is a historical date because France chooses the path we want to see in Europe. Equality can be achieved only if the system of prostitution is abolished, together with all the violence, exploitation and trafficking that it fuels!”, Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL).

After Sweden, Norway and Iceland, France commits to abolitionism, an approach which aims to change mentalities on prostitution and end this form of violence. The French law comprises a holistic series of measures: support and protect prostituted persons and abolish any form of repression against them; condemn all forms of pimping and trafficking; develop real alternatives and exit programmes for prostituted persons; criminalise the purchase of sex; and prevent prostitution through education and awareness raising actions.

“I am delighted of the adoption of such law in France: it sets the ground for the effective recognition of the status of victim for prostituted persons and give them the means to exit this system. Indeed, it is an important step in the struggle for dignity, equality between sexes and respect for human rights”, Nathalie Griesbeck, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) (ALDE, MoDem).

The EWL wants to pay tribute to the work of the French organisations, gathered in the collective Abolition2012: they have succeeded in showing the reality of prostitution and its impact on society and on the prostituted persons themselves. The voice of survivors have played a key role in the societal debate in France. The cross-party support to the Olivier law demonstrates the strength of the values underlying abolition: setting the grounds for a society freed from the oppression of the sex industry and of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation.

“The adoption of this law marks a strong progress in the struggle against international trafficking of women and children: it must allow us, at European level, to give more visibility to those who believe that prostitution is a form of violence against women and fuels the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. Therefore, I am very happy that France expresses its strong commitment in this field”, Sylvie Guillaume, MEP (S&D/PS).

“It is completely fundamental to suppress repressive measures against prostituted persons, who are above all victims of this system; to condemn all forms of procuring, of sexual exploitation, and of trafficking; to prohibit the purchase of sex, which means condemning the commodification of the human body, in particular of women and children. It is a struggle for human dignity”, Constance Le Grip, MEP (PPE/LR).

In February 2014, the European Parliament had adopted a resolution promoting the abolitionist model in the field of prostitution and sexual exploitation (Honeyball resolution). The EWL hopes that this European precedent, as well as the courageous and audacious choice of French parliamentarians, will be a source of inspiration for other countries in Europe, so that equality between women and men becomes a reality for all women.

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Le Lobby européen des femmes (LEF) est la plus grande coalition d’associations de femmes dans l’Union européenne et 3 pays en accession (Turquie, Macédoine et Serbie). Le LEF rassemble des associations travaillant sur l’ensemble des droits des femmes et promeut une Europe féministe, égalitaire et solidaire.

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