France bans paying for sex
French Parliament has passed a law which makes it illegal to pay for sex. The law imposes a stringent fine of up to €3,750 ($4,274) on those buying sexual acts. The convicted will have to attend classes to learn about the condition faced by prostitutes. The new law is more sympathetic from prostitutes' point of view as it seeks to protect and rehabilitate them.
Prostitution in France governed by 2003 law
Although prostitution is legal in France, brothels, pimping and the sale of sex by minors was illegal. In 2003, France had passed a law that banned passive soliciting by sex workers and hence, put the legal onus on the prostitutes. Prior to the 2016 law, 2003 was the main law governing prostitution in France. There are around 30,000-40,000 estimated sex workers in France.
2,70,000 victims of sexual exploitation in Europe
A European parliamentary report claims that at present there are approximately 880,000 people living in slave-like conditions in Europe, of whom 270,000 were victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
The new French law adopts the 'Nordic model'
The new French law borrows from the 'Nordic model' which was introduced by Sweden in 1999 and had been adopted by Canada, Iceland, and Norway. The model penalises clients instead of punishing those who have been driven into prostitution. The Nordic model provides "services and alternatives" to sex workers, and criminalizes buyers and educates them about the ground realities of the international sex trade.
'Punish the client, not the prostitute': European Parliament
European Parliament adopted a resolution calling the member nations to frame a law which punishes the clients and not the prostitutes. The resolution said that prostitution "whether voluntary or forced" violates human dignity and human rights. It also advised against blanket legalisation of prostitution as had been done in Germany and Holland. The resolution calls the members to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Reactions to the new law
The supporters of the new French law claim that it will help the prostitutes, especially foreigners by providing them temporary residence and documents which are generally confiscated by the pimps. They also claim that this law provides more safety to the prostitutes. However, many advocacy groups said that the law makes the sex work more dangerous by obscuring the identity of perpetrators of violence.