The lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, has approved a law imposing a €1,500 fine on those caught paying for sexual services. The bill is expected to go before the upper house for consideration in early 2014.
The lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, approved a bill on Wednesday that would impose a €1,500 fine on those caught paying for sexual services. The bill is expected to go before the upper house for consideration in early 2014.
Lawmakers voted 268 in favour and 138 against on a bill that would introduce some of the most restrictive legislation on prostitution in Europe, a radical departure from France’s traditionally tolerant attitude.
Those seeking to pay for sex will now face a €1,500 ($2,000) fine, while the act of soliciting itself will no longer be punished.
Minister for women’s rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who has pushed for the reform, argues that prostitution in any form is unacceptable and has said the aim of President François Hollande’s Socialist government was to suppress the trade altogether.
Proponents of the reform point to a rise in human trafficking as a key reason for more restrictive legislation. Some 90 percent of France’s estimated 20,000 to 40,000 prostitutes are victims of Nigerian, Chinese and Romanian trafficking networks, the government says.
Those figures represent a dramatic jump from just over a decade ago, when only one in five prostitutes was foreign.
But the proposed reforms have prompted street protests, and some prostitutes say the law will rob them of their livelihoods.
Critics, including some prominent French celebrities, say stricter legislation will simply push prostitution further underground and make the women more vulnerable to abuse.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls and other government ministers have also expressed reservations about being able to apply the law as it stands. Hollande’s Green coalition allies voted against the reform, as did the opposition centre-right UMP members.
Legislation in France lies somewhere between the laws of the Netherlands and Germany – where registered sex workers pay taxes and receive health benefits – and Sweden, where the law targets clients.
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