France Adopts Historic Law to End the System of Prostitution
Citing Country’s Abolitionist Tradition, French Parliament Votes to Decriminalize Prostituted Individuals and Penalize Buyers of Sexual Acts
New York, April 6, 2016 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women commends the French Assembly’s passage today of a historic human rights law to combat what it calls the “prostitutional system” and to provide assistance to prostituted individuals. The law repeals all forms of criminalization of persons who sell sexual acts while penalizing buyers of sex, also known as “johns.”
Evoking fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and women’s equality, the French parliamentarians equated the purchase of a sexual act with direct support of pimping, organized crime and sex trafficking. With today’s 64 to 12 vote, France joins the ranks of other governments around the world that recognize that ending the demand for commercial sexual acts is key in the fight against pimping, procuring and trafficking.
At the heart of the intensive multi-year call for abolitionist legislation in France is Rosen Hicher, a survivor of prostitution and key member of Abolition 2012, a collective of over 60 French organizations and survivors focused on the passage of this law. Hicher walked 800 kilometers across France in 2014 to raise awareness about the pervasive harms that “clients” perpetrate on prostituted women and girls, who constitute the overwhelming majority of individuals bought and sold in the sex trade.
“In our discourse about prostitution, we only talk about the prostituted, rarely of the pimp and never about the ‘client,'” says Hicher, who is also a member of SPACE International, a global advocacy network of sex trade survivors. “Today, France has come to understand that without buyers, the business of prostitution would not exist. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but today, we won.”
The new law aims to protect exploited persons in the sex trade and offers access to financial compensation for victims of prostitution and trafficking. It also mandates the implementation of a national exit policy to give victims access to social services, including housing, and the creation of school programs to discuss sexual commodification and exploitation. Additionally, temporary residency permits will be made available to foreign victims of sex trafficking.
“We applaud France for codifying its resolve to uphold human rights and to continue paving the road toward equality,” says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “Today is victorious for survivors and a day of hope for millions who remain brutally exploited in the sex trade. France is showing the world that prostitution is never an exception to gender-based violence.”