Prostitutes call for client law to be repealed

Two women standing in street
Prostitutes say their health, safety and earnings have been hit by the law criminalising clients

Police have arrested 937 men since last April but street workers say law has been ‘catastrophic’

Protesting prostitutes have called for the law penalising clients to be overturned as they say it has been “catastrophic for their health, safety and earnings”.

Marching from the historic Paris red light area of Pigalle to République, nearly 200 joined the protest which came as reports on the law’s first anniversary revealed more than 900 clients had been arrested across France.

Bearing slogans such as ‘Sexwork is work’ and ‘Clients punished, whores killed’ the protesters said their number of clients had fallen considerably since the law came into force and that it had made their lives more dangerous.

Sex workers’ union Strass organised the demo with others such as the Roses d’acier group of Chinese sex worker.

They were backed by Médecins du Monde, which said the 20,000 prostitutes in France – with 90% of them working the streets – had been severely affected by the law with daily violence and demands for unsafe sex. It added, however, that it had not reduced prostitute numbers, just their safety and earnings.

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Strass spokesperson Thierry Schaffauser said: "A colleague committed suicide because she could no longer pay her fines. Even if soliciting is no longer penalised there are plenty of laws that penalise sex work. It means that some girls accept unprotected sex or go abroad to work for pimps when previously they were independent.”

However, pro-law and anti-prostitution group Abolition 2012 welcomed the law. It said it penalised clients with €1,500 fines that rose to €3,750 for continuing offences and while an average of 1,500 prostitutes had previously been arrested each year for soliciting none had been arrested for this over the past year.

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