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04/13/2011 01:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 13, 2011

France May Make Buying Sex From Prostitutes Illegal

In an effort to curb human trafficking, a group of French politicians have recommended criminalizing clients of prostitutes, meaning anyone who pays for sex from any kind of sex worker could face a fine and possible imprisonment.

As the Guardian is reporting, France would join Sweden, Norway and Iceland in imposing jail time for clients of sex workers. Proposals for the new law could be drawn up as early as this month, but would likely not be debated in parliament before 2012.

"There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution," Roselyne Bachelot, the social affairs minister, is quoted by the Guardian as saying. "The sale of sexual acts means women's bodies are made available for men, independently of the wishes of those women."

Many officials agreed there were problems with the nation's current laws, stressing that all prostitution encouraged slavery and trafficking, which 80 percent of the estimated 20,000 sex workers living in France were reportedly victims of.

"France has a dreadful legal system concerning prostitution, full of contradictions," Francoise Gil, sociologist and founder of Femmes de droit, Droit des Femmes, an association representing prostitutes, tells UPI. "Because prostitution is tolerated but soliciting is a crime. It's made the milieu of prostitution and the work itself a lot worse."

Others have voiced concerns over changing the laws, noting that street prostitution in Sweden has simply moved underground since their law was introduced in 1999.

"Girls who were traditionally in the streets and did it freely, are now [...] working on ferry brothels in international waters, going backwards and forwards between Sweden and neighboring Denmark," a spokesperson for French sex workers's union Strass said last year. "They're under the control of the mafia." Ethnologist Marie-Elisabeth Handman, co-author of a major report called Prostitution à Paris, agreed. "Some prostitutes have a high level of knowledge, many men come to prostitutes only to talk," she said. "This sordid vision of prostitution that the abolitionists have is incomprehensible to me."