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French Sex Workers Protest Against Legal Brothels

Prostitutes

KATIE KING   03/24/10 07:49 PM ET   AP

PARIS — Dozens of French sex workers proclaiming themselves proud to be prostitutes marched Wednesday to protest a lawmaker's proposal to legalize brothels in France, arguing that such a law would deny them the freedom to work on their own.

A lawmaker in France's governing party has proposed reopening brothels just over six decades after they were banned in order to move prostitutes off the streets and provide them with medical, financial and legal protection.

The protesters say the proposal limits their options to make their own decisions – and are demanding, instead, a repeal of a 2003 law that outlaws solicitation.

"We are workers and we want the choice to work as we want," said Thierry Schaffauser, 27, a sex worker from Paris now living in London. "For doctors, they can work for a company or they can be independent. I think the importance is to let people choose how they want to work."

Dozens participated in a daylong conference on prostitution at the Senate, organized by a lawmaker opposed to the proposed bill. Lawmaker Chantal Brunel, who proposed the law, was not present.

After the conference, the men and women marched through Paris' Left Bank, many dressed in their skimpy work attire. Some carried signs reading, "You sleep with us, you vote against us."

"There's nothing to be ashamed of," said Lola Bruna, a 19-year-old sex worker from Paris. They "used to say that this is the oldest job ever, and that's not for no reason."

Brothels were legally outlawed in France in 1946. The 2003 law tightened restrictions against prostitution by making solicitation punishable with two months in prison and a euro3,750 ($5,000) fine.

"The question is not, for example, about the brothels," said Alima Boumediene-Thiery, the Green Party senator who organized Wednesday's conference. "The question is about the recognition of the rights of these men and women who have made these choices that we must respect."

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Filed by Nicholas Sabloff  |