In an effort to curb commercial sexual exploitation and protect the rights of women, the French National Assembly, or lower house, recently voted in favor of a progressive law that would criminalize the demand side of prostitution. The nation’s lawmakers representing the French population wanted to send a strong message that buying, selling, abusing, exploiting, and objectifying the bodies of women is not acceptable in a society where gender equality is an important goal. The law proposed by the French lower house also recognizes the undeniable role that the prostitution industry plays in supporting an environment that enables sex trafficking as well as the inherent harms of prostitution. The passage of the law in the lower house was a great victory… until it went into the hands of the Senate.
Unfortunately, some men in the French Senate had a different agenda. Grégoire Théry is the secretary general of Mouvement du Nid, a state-approved campaign group for gender equality that has been campaigning for the shift in criminal responsibility from prostituted women to sex buyers for five years. Théry believes that the Senate’s decision is politically motivated, and he explained how four male representatives used their party majority to vote on behalf of all 160 members of their political group. Théry referred to these representatives’ efforts to kill the legislation as political game-playing.1
The move to scrap the bill in the Senate was also seen as a gender battle between government officials. In July 2014, it was reported that 75 percent of female senators voted in favor of the criminalization of sex buyers, compared to 75 percent of male senators who voted against it.2 Théry said, “When you look at video discussions of the bill, the vast majority of those who took the floor in favor of the criminalization of buyers were women; those against—including the four conservatives—were men. So it’s a clear gender issue in France.”3 The battle over this issue is far from over. The legislation will go back into the hands of the lower house for further debate.
In order to effectively join the battle in France, it is critical that we understand and fight to overcome the myths that are often perpetuated by those who would seek to profit from the exploitation of prostituted and trafficked women. Don’t believe the myths.
- 1. http://www.newsweek.com/french-senate-rejects-plans-punish-prostitutes-clients-318336
- 2. http://www.womenlobby.org/spip.php?page=forum_membres&id_rubrique=10%27&lang=en&afficher_footer=oui reported in http://www.newsweek.com/french-senate-rejects-plans-punish-prostitutes-clients-318336
- 3. http://www.newsweek.com/french-senate-rejects-plans-punish-prostitutes-clients-318336
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