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Prostitutes say plans dangerous

Prostitutes say plans to make it illegal to pay for sex are dangerous

PROPOSALS to fine or jail prostitutes’ clients would “marginalise” sex workers and leave them “isolated and vulnerable”, said a spokeswoman for prostitutes’ union Strass. “Maîtresse [Mistress] Gilda”, a maleto- female transsexual, was among around 200 prostitutes, clients and members of associations who protested in Paris’s Place Pigalle last month.

They opposed a parliamentary report, recommending criminalising clients of prostitutes. Gilda, 35, told Connexion: “This would force the trade underground and reduce the number of clients, meaning sex workers might be forced to accept sex without protection. This is a question of public health, so affects everyone, not just prostitutes.”

Minister for Solidarity Roselyne Bachelot said the measure would protect vulnerable people, adding that there is “no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution.” The report states about 80% of prostitutes are illegal immigrants, typically victims of trafficking, figures which Strass however claims are misleading and out of date.

Gilda said she entered the trade at 18 for “independence and quick money” and most clients are “normal, simple men, who lead respectable lives but want sex without commitment.” She added: “Prostitutes I know are not victims of agression by clients - it’s people on the street who are aggressive towards them.” Gilda said sex workers rarely participate in political decisions involving them. “Politicians need to listen to the opinions of the people concerned.” She hoped the protests would help.

The fact around 20 associations, including health-related ones, backed the protest was “very important” and “gave it strength”, she said. The plans, not expected to come before parliament early next year, have been welcomed by anti-prostitution campaigners Mouvement du Nid.

However to be “coherent” they must be supplemented by complete decrimimalisation of prostitutes themselves, it said. At present while prostitution itself is legal, it is illegal to “solicit”, including standing in public suggestively. Pimping is also against the law. Brothels have been outlawed since 1946, however UMP Party MP Chantal Brunel last year called for them to be reopened in order to protect prostitutes from exploitation by pimps.

Sex workers have long campaigned to have their status fully recognised. “We want to contribute to social security just like everyone else, for pensions and health etc,” Gilda said. A Strass colleague, Tiphaine Besnard, said prostitutes can sign up as travailleurs indépendants to pay social charges and taxes, but they are often not taken seriously by banks or bodies for health or other social security benefits.

This is not helped by the stigma of the solliciting law or the fact they cannot advertise. “If you say you are a prostitute the bank won’t give you a loan, even if your tax statements show you earn a good living.” They sometimes resort to calling themselves coaches or beauty consultants, she said. The government should run a campaign to normalise the image of the job, she said.

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