French parliament approved on Wednesday a new law that makes paying for sex illegal. It will impose fines for clients but prostitutes cannot be prosecuted as they are safe from the law.

In the new law, authored by Socialist MP Maud Olivier who represents the Essone department near Paris, not only will impose fines ranging from 1500 to 3,750 euros for those buying sexual acts. It also forces the client to attend classes highlighting the dangers associated with prostitution.

Paris by night: Supporters say the law will help foreign sex workers to denounce the traffickers Credit: Rex

On the other hand, the bill makes available €4.8 million per year to help sex workers quit the trade and will also make it easier for foreign prostitutes to acquire a temporary residence permit if they enter a process to get out of the prostitution business.

“The goal is to diminish prostitution, protect prostitutes who want to quit, and change mentalities,” Oliver told France’s Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday.

She claims the law will help authorities tackle pimping and human trafficking, protect victims and help them escape the sex trade. It will also help better educate young people and clients of the harm caused by prostitution. In France, prostitution is not a crime, but activities around it like pimping human trafficking and buying sex from a minor are forbidden by law.

Reactions to the bill are divided

The bill has unleashed reactions from different groups. Some feminist groups who have been pushing for the abolition of prostitution say the law will help exploited women, anti-prostitution groups says prostitutes will no longer be seen as criminals and some other opponents say that cracking down on clients could push sex workers further underground and into vulnerable situations with less protection.

Elizabeth Lansey, a campaigner against the law said that if only customers are penalized, they will be able to impose even more of his choices, including unprotected sex as the girls will have to hide in order to practice their trade.
Claire Quidet a member of “Le Nid”, an anti-prostitution group said that the power relationship with their clients will be completely different as prostitutes will now be able to file a complaint in a police station when the are abused.

Supporters of the law, on the other hand, say that it will increase safety. Anne-Cecile Mailfert, the president of the Women’s Foundation in France, which provides support to women’s rights organisations, said they are giving to the prostituted person a new tool to defend themselves and protect themselves as now, sex workers are better able to seek police protection if they need it.

Source: BBC