The Slatest

France Outlaws Paying for Sex; Targets Clients, Not Sex Workers, to Discourage Prostitution

Picture of prostitutes taken on April 15, 2011 rue Saint-Denis in Paris, one of the red light district of France’s capital.


France passed a law Wednesday that outlaws paying for sex as a means of discouraging prostitution without criminalizing it. The new measure repeals a previous decade-old law that penalized the sex worker and instead places the onus of responsibility on the client, imposing a fine of some $1,700 for individuals caught soliciting a prostitute. The amount of the fine rises for repeat offenders and classes on the impact of the sex trade on women may be part of the process for convicted offenders.

“The French union of sex workers (Strass, its acronym in France) called on members and supporters to protest the ‘repressive’ bill outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers adopted the reform into law,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The comprehensive approach, which envisions an eventual eradication of prostitution, has [however] earned support among other French organisations that assist and defend sex workers.”

The law was first approved by the left-leaning National Assembly several years ago, but was shot down by the right-leaning Senate. The Assembly, the country’s lower house, has the final say when the chambers are split and approved the bill 64 to 12 (and 11 abstentions), meaning only 87 of the assembly’s 577 members cast a vote.

“Prostitutes who wish to leave the sex business will be eligible for funding to pay for training in other fields,” according to the New York Times. “But unions representing prostitutes and nongovernmental organizations that support them have complained that not enough money is allocated to help France’s 20,000 to 40,000 prostitutes, an estimate provided by various organizations and government agencies.”