Penalizing the Sex Worker or the Customer: French Policies on Prostitution

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée (Photo credit: William Hamon (aka Ewns))

Anonymous student post

We studied in class the migrations and their influence on sexual work. This phenomenon, as complex as important, is a subject of debate and polemic within the political class. Concerning a badly known, and sometimes taboo, subject; prostitution remains a difficult domain to supervise effectively by the law. Connected to this subject, a law is going to be voted in 5 days in France. This draft law is an innovative initiative because it proposes the penalization of the customers instead of the prostitutes. This blog post will present the various opinions emitted on this subject, in a sociological aim towards the sexual workers.

At the origin of this project, there is an alarming report on the state of the prostitution in France. On 40,000 sex workers acting in France, 90% would be foreigners, victims of the sexual exploitation. The Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, particularly in favour of this law, has for ambition to remove the prostitution from France. To penalize the customers, with 6 months of detention and 7500 euros of fine, appears as a way to destroy the source of the prostitution: the demand. These arguments arise from the idea that the prostitution is very rarely chosen and generally undergone. Adopting a law like this would respect the principles of the Republic. Also it could destroy the financing of the mafias and so on destroy the traffic.

On the side of the opponents of this project, the arguments are not either lacking. “STRASS”, France’s sex workers union, is one of the main opponent. For them, such a law translates a moralistic ideology of the politicians. The abolition of prostitution, for them, seems to be an unattainable goal, furthermore such a law would damage above all the prostitutes. To penalize the customers would create an increase of the violence. Instead of trying to destroy mafia networks, such a law would only serve to stigmatize more the sexual workers. In the name of paternalists and puritans ideals, the politicians would prefer to attack the smoke rather than the fire. The failure of this kind of laws in Sweden and in Norway lets think the opponents that a regulation approach must be studied, rather that a stigmatizing one.

It is clear that both opposed camps have the same aim and objective: the abolition of the sexual slavery. Nevertheless, the evoked ways are subject to the controversy. In my humble opinion, the penalization of the customers will not destroy prostitution. Although I recognize moral virtues in this law, it is only disputing the expression of the problem and not its source. The foreign prostitutes would be the first victims of such a system. It is necessary to bring institutions (medical, judicial, economic) to them rather than to try to hide them. To penalize the customer would only “blur” the system, in the style of hostess bars in Japan. Try to legally distinguish deliberate prostitution from forced prostitution would be a first stage in the destruction of maffioso networks. Unfortunately trying to supervise legally the activities connected to human vices appears in our societies as a form of laxness. Seeing the reality such as it is would allow the improvement of our legal system, however it includes also to admit that prostitution cannot disappear.

References

Geert de Clercq, Reuters, “French debate: Punish prostitutes or their customers?

Tom Craig, Demotix, “French Prostitutes protest Law Penalizing Clients

Hanna Kozlowska, Foreign Policy Blog, “Frenchmen to government: ‘Don’t touch our whores!’”

Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera, “French sex workers demand open dialogue on proposal to fine clients

Elisabeth Lévy, Le Monde, “Les gardes roses du nouveau puritanisme

One thought on “Penalizing the Sex Worker or the Customer: French Policies on Prostitution

  1. Pingback: How Legal is a Hostess Bar? | JAPANsociology

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