Anyone with romantic ideas about Europe’s sophisticated tolerance of all matters sexual is due for disenchantment. A Europe free from prostitution is the name of the European Women’s Lobby’s campaign, which I find questionable because they receive public funding from the EU yet several member states permit and regulate at least some forms of selling sex. But the EWL have always had a political commitment ‘to work towards a Europe free from prostitution, by supporting key abolitionist principles which state that the prostitution of women and girls constitutes a fundamental violation of women’s human rights, a serious form of male violence against women, and a key obstacle to gender equality in our societies.‘
Then last December the European Parliament passed new rules against trafficking that included the recommendation ‘to discourage demand, Member States should also consider taking measures to establish as a criminal offence the use of services of a victim, with the knowledge that he/she has been trafficked.’ This is a perfect example of the slide between anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution.
However, France has responded positively to the idea and is now the latest country to put criminalising clients of sex workers on the mainstream political agenda. Note that sponsorship of the law comes from both left- and right-wing parties (this is usual). And that France has prohibited indoor prostitution (maisons closes/brothels) for 65 years and persecutes migrant sex workers regularly outdoors. Forget the romantic cliché.
France considers making prostitution illegal – Excerpts from The Telegraph, 14 April 2011
A parliamentary commission of French MPs on Wednesday recommended treating the clients of prostitutes as criminals who should face fines of up to £2,500 or prison. The Socialist Danielle Bousquet and Guy Geoffroy of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP said that 80 per cent of the estimated 20,000 sex-workers in France were foreigners and victims of slavery or trafficking. [Note from LA: this claim from a UN report in 2009 has never been and cannot be substantiated.]
“To penalise clients is to make them understand that they are participating in a form of exploitation of the vulnerability of others,” said their report. Roselyne Bachelot, the social affairs minister, said she supported the proposals. “There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution. The sale of sexual acts means women’s bodies are made available for men, independently of the wishes of those women.”
While proposals for a law could be drawn up this month, it is unlikely to reach parliament before next year. In France brothels have been illegal since 1946 and pimping is against the law as is paying for sex with a minor. But prostitution is not outlawed. Mr Sarkozy toughened prostitution rules in 2003 while interior minister in a controversial law forbidding women to loiter in prostitution hang outs in revealing clothes. Sex-workers’ groups in France regularly stage demonstrations demanding a proper legal status. A recent survey found six out of ten French men and women wanted brothels to be legalised. . .
Les deux cotés du debat, de Libération