France’s parliament is looking to abolish prostitution with the proposal of a bill that would make payment for sex a crime punishable by fines and prison, the BBC reported.
Under current French law it is legal to "seek or offer money for sexual services" providing it is done without advertising, the Daily Telegraph reported. But the National Assembly approved the latest proposal by a show of hands at a cross-party, non-binding resolution which is due to be followed by a bill.
Clients of prostitutes could face up to six months in prison and fines of $4,000 (or 3,000 euros), the BBC reported.
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According to the Daily Telegraph, socialist MP Danielle Bousquet and Guy Geoffroy from President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party said they wanted to end preconceptions that "as 'the world's oldest profession' nothing can be done about prostitution.” They believe that criminalizing the client is the most effective way to cut down on prostitution in France.
Some campaigners rejected the bill advocating for the rights of approximately 20,000 prostitutes in France. The sex workers’ union rallied outside of parliament, protesting the proposed changes, ABC Melbourne reported.
"What we want is for the National Assembly to speak out in a strong and solemn way on the principle of an abolition of prostitution and on everything that should help it in today's society," said Geoffroy, ABC Melbourne reported. "Better help for the prostitutes to get out of prostitution with real, credible alternatives to be able to regain their dignity in society."
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Geoffroy and other MPs said nine out of 10 prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"From now on prostitution is regarded from the point of view of violence against women and that has become unacceptable for everyone," Geoffroy said, the BBC reported.
Prostitution in France has been considered a private choice since the end of WWII, and was never made illegal. But since Dominique Strauss-Khan’s scandal over the summer, the French government has become more and more abolitionist and the public mood has hardened, the Guardian reported.