LDIF, Ligue du Droit International des Femmes

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Jour historique: la loi pénalisant les clients de la prostitution a été adoptée par l’Assemblée

After years of citizenship initiatives and civil actions, French law makers took a critical step to establish gender equality in France by adopting The Nordic Model. On April 6th 2016, the French National Assembly recognized prostitution as one of the worst forms of violence against women and voted the criminalization of the purchase of sex. This vote in favor of criminalization is the fourth and the final draft submitted between 2013 and 2016 (overthrowing three rejections by the Senate), reinforcing the country will to fight sexual exploitation of women in prostitution. Under this law, prostituted women, children and men will not be criminalized. They will receive social support and benefits to exit prostitution while men buying sex will be fined and liable to prosecution.

By adopting this law, France complied with its international and national commitments, including the national law on rape (1981) and the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949). French law defines rape as “any act of penetration imposed on someone by violence, surprise or coercion” and the French National Assembly acknowledges that buying access to a human body via a financial transaction is inherently an act of coercion.

Further, the French National Assembly recognized that prostitution harms all women (in prostitution or not) by undermining their emotional and physical wellbeing, security, health, and fundamental rights as human beings, harming society as a whole. More than a quick-fix to prostitution, the law is ambitious to offer a way-out to women trapped into sexual exploitation and the possibility to prosecute the offenders.

More specifically, when it comes to sexual violence against women, the French National Assembly recognized the tremendous level of violence in prostitution, including assault, rape, physical and psychological torture. The French National Assembly also recognized that the existence of prostitution encourages the transnational trafficking of women and children. This has been demonstrated in countries such as Germany, Spain and New Zealand which tried full regularization of prostitution and yet witnessed sex trafficking surge, with underage and disenfranchised women imported by the thousands to meet the ever increasing demand of sex buyers.

Indeed, while admitting the failure of regularization at an international scale, the Assembly recognized the need to urgently address the demand-side in prostitution. It has been established that sex buyers are responsible for the ever-increasing number of women and children brought into prostitution, as well as the worst form of violence perpetrated against them. Their forums, where they evaluate their preys as goods, details explicitly the hatred, domination and violence they impose on women.

By this historical decision, French law makers confirmed that they heard the voices of hundreds of survivors, as well as women still trapped in the sex industry. They acknowledged that most women in prostitution were groomed while still underage, and that all attempts of legalization led to even more exploitation while failing to offer them any form of safety. Indeed, it is impossible, let alone human, to regularize and streamline pedocriminality, slavery, torture and murder. All countries must take all the steps in their power in order to fight such human rights abuses.

It is with pride and the greatest enthousiasm that we, French feminists and abolitionists, welcome the new legislation, as an effective tool to achieve gender equality. To us, it is more than a step in the right direction: it’s the beginning of a new world…

LDIF, La Ligue du Droit International des Femmes
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