Chantal Brunel, a French MP and member of Nicolas Sarkozy's party, has called for a return to a system of licensed brothels in the country.
"Women selling sex should be allowed to do so legally on special licensed premises," said Brunel, an MP for the UMP party, who was appointed last month as head of the national watchdog on sexual equality.
"This would free thousands of women from the exploitation they suffer at the hands of pimps and criminal gangs and offer them much more security they currently have on the streets.
"It would give them a legal taxable income and they would not be handing over large sums of their earning to a pimp," she said.
Brunel's proposals appear to be supported by the French public. A national poll by the CSA agency found that 59 per cent approved reopening regulated brothels. The plans were supported more by men (70 per cent) than by women (49 per cent), yet only 13 per cent of women were opposed, according to the poll for Le Parisien.
Sarkozy had previously come down hard on France's sex industry. Back in 2003, while interior minister, he made "passive solicitation" a crime punishable by a jail term - meaning women could be judged to have been soliciting just by their appearance, even if they had not approached a potential customer.
Critics, however, say the 'Sarkozy law' only forced prostitutes into more dangerous circumstances. Brunel, once a supporter of the law, appears to agree.
France had 1,400 legal brothels, known as maisons closes, before they were all shut down in 1946, partly due to shame about "horizontal" Nazi collaboration. Brothels are legal in Brothels in Germany, Holland and Switzerland.