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Prostitution law hailed as historic

Charities welcome move to criminalise prostitutes’ clients as MPs vote through new law

OPPONENTS of prostitution hailed a “historic” advance as MPs passed a new prostitution law including criminalising paying for sex.

The law, which also includes measures meant to help people leave prostitution and abolishes the crime of soliciting, will now be examined by the Senate before June next year.

A majority of 268 MPs voted for the law, 138 against and 79 abstained.

Le Mouvement du Nid, a charity helping people leave prostitution, said in a statement: “The MPs have decided on a historic advance – France has taken a stance alongside people who are prostituted, against those who exploit their vulnerability.”

High-profile feminist group Osez le Féminisme also referred to a “historic law”, adding it would like the MPs to go further to help immigrants involved in prostitution, by giving them “extended residence permits, not at the discretion of the prefet.”

Official equality watchdog the Haut Conseil à l’Egalité Femmes-Hommes stated: “The National Assembly is sending a strong signal in France, Europe and the world.”

Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud Belkacem told MPs: “The road has been long and full of pitfalls, but I thank you for having believed in this law... for having agreed to look at prostitution as it is and not as we imagine it.”

However, the law has not received universal support, including from some bodies involved with sex-workers’ health.

Aids charity Aides said that making “all forms” of prostitution illegal would only “make prostitutes more vulnerable and expose them to greater health risks”; while Médecins du Monde director Jean-François Corty said penalising clients would “have a counterproductive effect”.

A group representing prostitutes, Strass, said the law aims at “putting them more under the control of the state and abolitionist bodies that want to save them from themselves”.

The government says recent findings show most prostitutes are foreigners who may have been victims of trafficking networks. Strass however, says the figures were based on police reports and they do not account for the fact most prostitution no longer involves encounters on the street, but is arranged over the internet often under titles like “escorting” or “massage”.

Fred - Fotolia

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