France Expects to Wipe Out Oldest Profession
By Staff News & Analysis - April 15, 2011

Sex clients could be fined, jailed under proposed law … Sex clients could be fined, jailed under proposed law. An association of French prostitutes has slammed a parliamentary report recommending that paying for sex should be criminalised. Published on Wednesday, the report recommends a €3,000 fine and up to six months in jail for those who solicit sex. Prostitution is not illegal in France, but procuring or soliciting other people for sex is. Penned by lawmakers Danielle Bousquet (Socialist Party) and Guy Geoffrey (ruling UMP), the report argues that, "Punishing clients would make them understand that they are engaged in a form of exploitation. – France 24

Dominant Social Theme: Having established fairness and equity in Libya and the Ivory Coast, the French now prepare to solve the problem of prostitution.

Free-Market Analysis: In a libertarian society, many of the current wars (such as the war on drugs) would be seen as unnecessary. People could do as they pleased so long as they did not hurt others. But despite the literally millions pages of documentary evidence that shows laws that target personal behavior are ineffective and unproductive, such laws persist. Now France, upending a century's old tradition of tolerance, is contemplating making patronizing prostitution a crime.

What's the rationale? According to this report in France 24, "The new proposals would help demystify the trade, say the authors. 'It would reaffirm the principle of non-commercialization of the human body and bury the myth that prostitution is simply the "oldest trade in the world" once and for all.'"

The article gives ample space to the other side of the argument. Ironically, it is the French Prostitutes Union STRASS that has come out most strongly against the proposed legislation. Pimps would be the only winners, spokesperson Mistress Gilda said. In fact, she points out in the article that the law will do what all such laws do, criminalize the behavior and thus open the way for organized crime to take over.

Such legislation can be seen as make-work for police unions and provide fodder for prisons, but there is probably little evidence that it has any effect on the behavior of those involved, especially those seeking out such services "Prostitution is not going to vanish," Mistress Gilda said, "And these pimps would be the only winners." Here's some more from the article:

Until 1946, Paris had a flourishing sex industry based around a number of established brothels, or maisons closes, which benefitted particularly from the patronage of the occupying German army during World War II. A 1946 law closed the estimated 1,400 brothels across France, ending a system that had regulated prostitution in the country since 1804. France became officially "abolitionist" in 1960, when it signed the 1949 UN Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking and the Exploitation of Prostitution.

In 2003, then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law banning "passive solicitation", a vague term aimed at curbing a manner of "dress and attitude" that advertises sexual services. 'We want to pay our taxes' If a law to criminalise sex clients is passed, France would join Norway, Iceland and Sweden, where clients face a fine of six months' pay and six months in jail. But in Germany, sex workers get the same state benefits as other taxpayers – a system that Mistress Gilda said would be welcomed by the prostitutes working in France.

Fresh from starting a war in Libya and causing a mini-genocide in the Ivory Coast, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has seemingly turned his sights on French sexual commerce. Once know for sexual tolerance, France is now to join the ranks of countries that have passed laws denying the expression of human nature. Whatever one thinks of prostitution, it is hard to deny that it will persist no matter what kind of legislation is aimed against it.

Mistress Gilda has a very good point in this regard. Just as with drugs and alcohol, legislation making sex commerce illegal will simply create avenues for criminal exploitation. When an activity is made illegal it doesn't go away – that's only a legislative conceit. What happens is that law-abiding citizens remove themselves from the business-end of the activity and those who are willing to take the criminal risk (usually a more disruptive and violent element) move in. Law enforcement certainly knows these facts and thus such laws can be seen as "make work" for police.

The law is intended to targets of prostitution, so in addition to criminalizing yet another intimate human activity, the regulations will no doubt have the effect of upending the lives of people who may not normally patronize prostitutes but who have been caught on a single excursion. Others who go regularly may not ever fall into the hands of law enforcement.

The argument may be made that prostitution is such a terrible activity that the law should do everything in its power to stop it. But there are plenty of terrible professions in the world. War is a fairly terrible occupation but seems somehow to escape the criminalizing urge that afflicts the sex trade. And then there is the larger issue of the sexual contract between men and women. Why should some transactions be punished and others not?

The sex trade is not a kind of one-size-fits-all entity. For some young women who have no other means of support, it is an entrée into society that on some occasions results in wealth, success and even marriage for those who chose it. For others it eventually devolves into the sadness of regular exploitation and humiliation. But we would argue that such an evolution is not restricted to just the sex industry.

After Thoughts

Criminalization will not put a stop to even a single practice that is going on currently. It will merely aggravate, in France, what is already bad and make the rest increasingly furtive and desperate. This "war on prostitution" may be yet another damaging conflict defining Sarkozy's legacy as he struggles to overcome a 75 percent disapproval rating. He is girding himself for another campaign season apparently; that is one war we hope he decides not to undertake.

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