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Prostitutes' clients face fines

Parliamentary report plans to target clients with €3,000 penalties and jail in bid to halt human trafficking

PROSTITUTES’ clients face fines of up to €3,000 and six months’ jail under plans to halt human trafficking revealed in a draft parliamentary report.

MP Guy Geoffroy said: “A client who goes to see a prostitute gives his support – no doubt without knowing it – to trafficking in human beings and encouragement to mafia-type gangs.”

Unveiling the report, the UMP MP and Socialist Danielle Bousquet said 64% of the women working the streets were under threats from a pimp and that 90% of them were foreigners, most of them illegal immigrants, as against 20% in the 1970s.

The interior ministry estimates there are between 18,000 and 20,000 prostitutes working although sex workers’ groups say there are 10 times this number. Around 80% of prostitutes are women and sex groups say between 4,000 and 10,000 are minors.

Solidarity minister Roselyne Bachelot has come out strongly in favour of the changes but interior minister Claude Guéant said it would mean wholesale changes in the law as it would be difficult to charge the client when prostitution itself was not illegal.

Sex workers union spokeswoman Mistress Gilda said the plan was a like a witch-hunt and would just “reinforce the isolation and vulnerability of prostitutes”.

She was backed by Médecins du Monde president Olivier Bernard who said fining clients would marginalise prostitutes and force the trade on to the internet and underground. There would be no controls and it would be more difficult to prevent infections and help prostitutes facing threats.

The plans will not come before the National Assembly until next year but, if approved, France will join Sweden, Norway and Iceland in targeting clients. In Sweden clients face a fine of six months’ pay and six months’ jail.

In Germany, prostitution is seen as a separate trade and workers get the same state benefits as other workers while in Spain, as in France, prostitution itself is not illegal but pimping is.

Photo: Couperfield - Fotolia.com

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