France: Former Prostitute Calls on French Government to Tackle Demand for Commercial Sex
Thursday, October 23, 2014 10:10 AM

A former French prostitute walked 800 kilometers across France to raise public awareness about prostitution as a form of violence against women. The woman, Rosen Hicher, called on the French government to reconsider a bill that would penalize men who purchase sex from prostituted women. That bill was blocked and set aside by a French Senate committee in July.

French minister for women’s rights, Pascale Boistard, joined Hicher in Paris as the former sex worker completed her thirty-nine day march on October 12. Boistard said the French Senate must take up the National Assembly’s anti-prostitution law, adding “[w]e can’t accept in a country like ours that women end up being prostitutes, are in the hands of mafia networks and are victims of daily physical and mental violence.”

The bill approved by the French National Assembly follows the Nordic or Swedish model of prostitution. This model recognizes the fundamental links between prostitution and the violent exploitation and trafficking of women and girls for sex. Laws that punish prostitutes only make this serious violation of women’s human rights worse. Additionally, the Nordic model rejects the idea that full legalization of prostitution will improve the lives of commercial sex workers. Countries that have legalized prostitution have seen an increase in the illegal trafficking of women and girls to meet a growing demand for commercial sex. By punishing sex buyers, supporters of the Nordic model hope to tackle this demand for women’s sexual services.

The stalled French bill would fine men who buy sex up to 1,500 Euros and would decriminalize the solicitation of sex by women. The bill would also offer financial and other support to women and girls who want to exit commercial sex work. It is not clear when or if the French Senate may revisit the National Assembly’s anti-prostitution bill.

Compiled from: Ex-prostitute Walks 800 km in Protest, The Local (October 13, 2014); French Ex-prostitue Ends Long March to Support Fines for Clients, RFI-English (October 12, 2014); Prostitution, Trafficking, and Modern Slavery in Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Rapporteur: José Mendes Bota (March 20, 2014).