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The Battle in France Continues

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.


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2 Comments on “The Battle in France Continues”

  1. George380 Says:
    April 17th, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    I suggest these are some myths that shouldn’t be believed: first, that forcing sex work further underground is going to help victims of true coercion; secondly, that it is helping the cause of feminism to deny women the opportunity to decide for themselves. I used to think feminists believed in female autonomy and self-determination. Yet in
    discussion internationally of the new law I have repeatedly seen demands, some made by prominent figures, that all sex workers must, as a matter of dogma, perceive themselves as coerced. Seemingly they are not permitted even to
    have independent private thoughts on the matter.

    I also believe the reason for the action by the French Senate was that, as a result of careful inquiry and consideration in committee, they courageously questioned “mythical” claims made in support of the Swedish model.

  2. George380 Says:
    April 17th, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Further, I’d like M Thery, in regard to his criticism of “political game playing” to look at the voting record in the Canadian lower house last year on the Third Reading (and passage) of Bill C36, criminalizing paying for sex. There was a total of two Independent MPs who voted in favor of the new law and not any other non-Conservative. On the other hand, there was not one Conservative voting against it. How about that for party politics?