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Prostitution in France

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Prostitution in France

Prostitutes and clients conversing at the Palais Royal Paris, 1800. Ink and watercolour. Bibliothèque nationale de France

Prostitution in France (the exchange of sexual services for money) is not illegal, but several surrounding activities are. These include procuring, operating a brothel, living off the avails (pimping), and paying for sex with someone under the age of 18, although the age of consent for non-commercial sex is 15.[1]

During the Napoleonic era France became the model for the regulatory approach to prostitution. In the twentieth century a policy shift became apparent. Brothels became illegal in 1946 and France signed the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1960. With these moves France became a major supporter of the international abolitionist movement, advocating the eradication of prostitution. (See #Abolitionism in France)


  • History 1
    • Early period 1.1
    • Middle Ages 1.2
      • Saint Louis IX (1226–70) 1.2.1
    • Réglementation (Regulation) 1.3
      • World War I 1.3.1
      • World War II 1.3.2
    • Abolitionism in France 1.4
      • Loi de Marthe Richard (1946) 1.4.1
      • 1960: Ratification of 1949 UN Convention 1.4.2
      • State policy from 1960 1.4.3
      • Penal Code 1994 1.4.4
      • International policy 1.4.5
      • Loi Sarkozy (Loi pour la sécurité intérieure) 2003 1.4.6
  • Legal status 2
  • Politics 3
    • State feminism 3.1
  • Political and social debates 4
    • The 2000 manifestations 4.1
    • The Senate inquiry (1999–2001) 4.2
    • Opposition 4.3
    • Security debates 2002 4.4
      • Legislation (Domestic Security Law) 2003 4.4.1
      • Reactions 4.4.2
      • Evaluation 4.4.3
    • Further legislative attempts 4.5
      • 2011 Parliamentary Commission 4.5.1
      • Proposal to penalise clients of prostitution (2011-2014) 4.5.2
    • Construction of prostitution 4.6
  • Public opinion 5
    • Expert opinion 5.1
  • Forms and extent of prostitution 6
    • Maisons closes 6.1
    • Earnings 6.2
  • Prostitution and culture 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
    • General 9.1
    • Feminism 9.2
    • History 9.3
  • External links 10


Paris arrondissements, 1st highlighted, the 2nd and 3rd to the N. & 4th to the E
Étienne Jeaurat (1699–1789). "Filles de joie" being taken to the Salpêtrière 1745. Oil on canvas, Musée Carnavalet, Paris
Prostitutes in Paris during the revolutionary period, c. 1793-95. Engraving by Jacques-Louis Copia (1764–1799), after Jean-Baptiste Mallet (1759–1835). Bibliothèque nationale de France
Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845). "Point de Convention" c. 1797 (Woman refusing money offered by a gentleman who has assumed she is a prostitute)

The history of prostitution in France is similar to that in other European countries, with alternating periods of tolerance and repression (Tolérance générale, répression occasionnelle), but is marked by the length of time during which the maisons (brothels) were tolerated. Prostitutes were not marginalized, but integrated into society where they had a role to play. In stories (which were often ribald), prostitutes would be complicit with other women in avenging men. The great Cathedral of Chartres had a window endowed by prostitutes (The Prodigal Son) in the same way as other windows were endowed by various other trade guilds (The Trade Windows).[2][3][4][5]

Early period

After the period of Roman rule, the Visigoth monarch Alaric II (485–507 AD) seems to be the first French ruler to prosecute prostitution.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages the various authorities, civil or noble, oversaw prostitution as an institution. Regulation was largely at the municipal level, restricting activity on certain streets, travel, liaisons, required distinctive dress (gold belts, or ceinture dorée)[6] and opening hours of the maisons (10-6, or 10-8 in Paris).

Charlemagne (768–814 AD) was amongst those rulers who attempted to suppress prostitution, declaring flogging (300 lashes) as a punishment in his capitularies. This was primarily aimed at the common man, since harems and concubines were common amongst the ruling classes. Some idea of the seriousness with which the state regarded the offense is provided by the fact that 300 lashes was the severest sentence prescribed by the Code Alaric. Offenders also had their hair cut off, and in the case of recidivism, could be sold as slaves. There is no evidence that any of this was effective.[7][8] Under Philip II (1180–1223) an irregular militia, the Ribaud were created in 1189 to police prostitution and gambling, headed by a Roi des Ribauds, but abolished by Philip IV (1285–1314) due to their licentiousness.

Saint Louis IX (1226–70)

In the interim Louis IX (1226–1270) attempted to ban prostitution in December 1254, with disastrous social consequences and widespread protests. The decree ordered the expulsion of all 'women of evil life' from the kingdom and confiscation of their belongings, but simply drove the trade underground. Eventually he was forced to revoke this by 1256. Although still railing against women who were 'free with their bodies and other common harlots' he acknowledged the pragmatic desirability of housing them away from respectable streets and religious establishments, and so obliged them to reside outside of the borders of the city walls. His resolve to do away with prostitution was affirmed in a letter of 1269 to the regents, as he set out on the Eighth Crusade, in which he refers to the need to extirpate the evil, root and branch. The punishment for infraction was an 8 sous fine and risking imprisonment in the Châtelet (see below). He designated nine streets in which prostitution would be allowed in Paris, three of them being in the sarcastically named Beaubourg quartier (Beautiful Neighbourhood)[9] (Rue de la Huchette, Rue Froimon, Rue du Renard-Saint-Merri, Rue Taille pain, Rue Brisemiches, Rue Champ-Fleury, Rue Trace-putain, Rue Gratte-cul, and the Rue Tire-Putain) (see below)[10][11]

Today this area corresponds to the 1st–4th arrondissements clustered on the Rive Droite (right bank) of the Seine (see map). These streets, associated with prostitution, had very evocative if indelicate names including the Rue du Poil-au-con (or hair of the con, from the Latin cunnus meaning female genitalia, hence Street of the Pubic Hair, or Poil du pubis), later altered to the Rue du Pélican, in the 1st arrondissement, near the first Porte Saint-Honoré,[12] and the Rue Tire-Vit (Pull-Cock, i.e. penis, later the Rue Tire-Boudin, Pull-Sausage) now Rue Marie-Stuart, in the 2nd arrondissement, near the first Porte Saint-Denis. It is said that Tire-Boudin was a euphemism invented for Mary Queen of Scots when she asked after its name, and the street is now named after her.[13] The nearby Rue Gratte-Cul (Scratch-bottom) is now the Rue Dussoubs, and the Rue Pute-y-Musse (Whore [who] hides there) the Rue du Petit-Musc by corruption. The "rue Trousse-Nonnain" (fuck nun), later became Trace-Putain, Tasse-Nonnain, and Transnonain; then in 1851 it was amalgamated into the Rue Beaubourg.[14] The Rue Baille-Hoë (Give Joy) is now Rue Taillepain in the 4th arondissement near the Porte Saint-Merri.[15]

In 1358 the Grand Conseil of John II (1350–64) echoing the "necessary evil" doctrine of Saints Augustine (354–430 AD) and Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) declared that "les pécheresses sont absolument nécessaires à la Terre" (Sinners are an absolute necessity for the country).[7] Prostitution remained confined to designated areas, as indicated in this decree in the reign of Charles V (1364–80), by Hugh Aubriot, Provost of Paris in 1367, outlining the areas outside of which prostitutes would be punished 'according to the ordinance of Saint Louis';

Que toutes les femmes prostituées, tenant bordel en la ville de Paris, allassent demeurer et tenir leurs bordels en places et lieux publics à ce ordonnés et accoutumés, selon l'ordonnance de Saint Louis. C'est à savoir : à L'Abreuvoir de Mascon (à l'angle du pont Saint-Michel et de la rue de la Huchette), en La Boucherie (voisine de la rue de la Huchette), rue Froidmentel, près du clos Brunel (à l'est du Collège de France aboutissant au carrefour du Puits-Certain), en Glatigny (rue nommée Val d'Amour dans la Cité), en la Court-Robert de Pris (rue du Renard-Saint-Merri), en Baille-Hoë (près de l'église Saint-Merri et communiquant avec la rue Taille-Pain et à la rue Brise-Miche), en Tyron (rue entre la rue Saint-Antoine et du roi de Sicile), en la rue Chapon (aboutissant rue du Temple) et en Champ-Flory (rue Champ-Fleury, près du Louvre). Si les femmes publiques, d'écris ensuite cette ordonnance, se permettent d'habiter des rues ou quartiers autres que ceux ci-dessus désignés, elles seront emprisonnées au Châtelet puis bannies de Paris. Et les sergents, pour salaire, prendront sur leurs biens huit sous parisis…[16]

Contemporary accounts suggest that this decree was rarely enforced.[8]

The appearance of syphilis at the end of the 15th century had stigmatized these houses by the end of the 16th century, but their continued existence was confirmed by King Henry IV (1589–1610).[17]

Réglementation (Regulation)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Salon de la rue des Moulins, 1894, now housed in the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec at the Palais de la Berbie

In 1804 Napoleon ordered the registration and bi-weekly health inspection of all prostitutes. State controlled legal brothels (then known as "maisons de tolérance" or "maisons closes") started to appear in Paris and in other cities and became highly popular throughout the century. By 1810, Paris alone had 180 officially approved brothels.

By law, they had to be run by a woman (typically a former prostitute) and their external appearance had to be discreet. Prostitutes working in the maisons, or any woman arrested twice for soliciting had to be registered as such.[18] Registration involved having their name on a national register, and agreeing to abide by the regulations and twice weekly medical examinations.[19] This pattern of regulation rapidly spread throughout Europe, partly aided by the Napoleonic occupations.

Among the most expensive and best known maisons de tolérance in Paris were:

More sordid brothels, the maisons d'abattage, offering quick and dirty services, were popular amongst the lower-class.

The 19th century was also the time of several fabulously rich courtesans in Paris, with La Païva being the most famous one.

World War I

A group of filles de joie in Marseille, 1919

During World War I, in Paris alone, US Army officials estimated that there were 40 major brothels, 5,000 professionally licensed streetwalkers, and another 70,000 unlicensed prostitutes.[22] By 1917, there were at least 137 such establishments across 35 towns on or close to the Western front.[23]

The British Army adopted local codes of ethics when fighting in another country, and so allowed troops on rest periods and days off to visit what became termed maisons tolérées. Such activity was not just tolerated but encouraged for both the young, as well as the married men who were missing their wives. As the war advanced, so did the need and rank of the prostitutes entertained. While British troops paid just six pence per day were often found in the lowest priced institutes, dominion soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada received six shillings and could afford higher-class services. British officers preferred to "always indulge with armour (condoms)" and took to patronizing German Army officers' former prostitutes when the lines of conflict were advancing towards the end of the war, with the advantage that they sometimes gained tactical and strategic information as well.[23]

It is unknown how many or what percentage of men visited the institutions, but the French army recorded over a million cases of gonorrhea and syphilis during the war.[22] In 1915 in Le Havre, a survey undertaken by the Royal Army Medical Corps counted 171,000 uniformed British Army visitors to the brothels in just one street. As a result, rates of venereal disease began to climb, with 23,000 British Army men at any time on average during the second half of the campaign hospitalised for treatment,[22] with over 150,000 British soldiers having been infected by the end of the war.[23] The disease at the time had a high social stigma, but a particularly bad infection could get a soldier medically discharged from frontline duty, even on a temporary basis. Syphilis was treated with injections of mercury, administered at a hospital over a 30-day period, thereby guaranteeing escape from the frontline. The result was that some prostitutes with particularly bad VD infections could charge more. Every British army unit had a sexually transmitted disease clinic, where soldiers could gain an ointment consisting of mercury and chlorine to prevent VD infection, or receive a urethral irrigation with potassium permanganate after STI exposure.[23]

The US Army attitude was different, driven by a reformist attitude at home. In October 1917, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker said:[22]

Aided by the Storyville district in New Orleans. When the two million soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force had been deployed to France, they were guided by a bulletin from AEF commander Gen. John Pershing to just say no:[22]

This was backed up by additional posters and pamphlets that read "You wouldn't use another fellow's tooth-brush, so why use his whore?" and "A Soldier Who Gets a Dose Is a Traitor!" The US Army had clear instructions on those who did not follow the no indulgence rule. US Army regulations required soldiers who admitted to having sex while on leave to submit to chemical prophylaxis, that included irrigating the penis. Soldiers who did not report for prophylaxis and later contracted VD were subject to court-martial and possibly a hard-labor sentence, while those who contracted disease after treatment only lost pay during treatment. Implemented from the first day of training, the initiative was so successful that US Army doctors reported that 96% of the cases they treated had been contracted while the soldier was still a civilian.[22]

However, on debarkation at the designated port of Raymond Fosdick, who on giving it to Secretary Baker responded: "For God's sake, Raymond, don't show this to the president or he'll stop the war." The French later proposed a deal that targeted the Black American troops, most of whom were assigned to unloading freight in segregated stevedore battalions, again flatly turned down by US authorities. But this merely highlighted US differential racial policy, as all black troops were required by US Army regulations to undertake prophylaxis when returning from leave, whether or not they acknowledged sexual contact.[22]

The policy adopted by the US Army worked, with far lower rates of VD across their troops compared to French or British and Dominion combatants. However, after the signing of the Armistice, when the US Army could no longer plead military necessity as grounds for curtailing leave, VD rates among US Army troops shot up.[22]

World War II

During World War II, Dr Edith Sumerskill raised the issue of Maisons Tolérée in Parliament to Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden after the intervention of the British Expeditionary Force.[24] Further questions were raised in Parliament after the D-Day invasion, to ensure such local practises and medical precautions were continued.

During the German occupation of France, twenty top Paris maisons, including le Chabanais, le Sphinx and le One Two Two, were reserved by the Wehrmacht for German officers and collaborating Frenchmen.[17] The brothels flourished during this time, and Hermann Göring visited Le Chabanais, as is related in the 2009 two-volume book 1940–1945 Années Erotiques by Patrick Buisson.[25]

Abolitionism in France

Loi de Marthe Richard (1946)

After the war, pimping) and its visual manifestations forbidden.

This ended a system in existence since 1804, which effectively made prostitutes less visible without suppressing the trade, and thus preservied 'public morality'.[27] Prostitute registries were supposed to be destroyed, but police kept files till 1960. Roughly 20,000 women were affected by this law and approximately 1,400 houses closed. Many former brothel owners soon opened "hôtels de passe" instead, where prostitutes could keep on working, but the visibility of their activities was reduced.

Critics of French prostitution policy such as Mouvement du Nid question how effective this was, its implementation and whether it really closed the maisons. For instance they point to the presence of military brothels in Algeria till 1960.[28]

In 1958 the Office central pour la répression de la traite des êtres humains (OCRTEH) was created as a branch of the police, to combat pimping and cooperate with Interpol. It is under the direction of the Minister of the Interior.[29][30]

1960: Ratification of 1949 UN Convention

France became officially 'abolitionist' in 1960 when it ratified the 1949 UN Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking and the Exploitation of Prostitution.[31]

State policy from 1960

In the debates over prostitution in France, "abolition" was used to refer to both the abolition of laws and regulations that make any distinction between someone involved in prostitution and the general population and the abolition of prostitution itself. At that time police files on prostitutes were finally destroyed.[31] However implementation varied considerably locally, although prostitution was rarely on the political agenda over the next 30 years. Exceptions were the demonstrations of prostitutes rights movements against police harassment in 1975, and periodic calls by individual politicians for re-opening the maisons (see Maisons closes below). These included that of Michèle Barzach (RPR), a former Minister of health (1986–8) in 1990, as a public health measure, given the concerns about HIV/AIDS.[30]

State policy has been built on two principles, criminalisation and support. Criminalisation of the exploitation (Brothels, Procuring, Pimping) or manifestation (Soliciting) of prostitution, and support and reintegration for those exiting. However the latter attracted few funds and was largely left to charitable NGOs. Only a single position within the Department of Social Services had responsibility for this part of policy and funding.[30] The original intention was that the Departments would set up their own Prevention and Rehabilitation Services, but of 100, only 12 were created following the 1960 ordinance and by 1999 there were only 5, run by NGOs.[32] Other state responsibilities have fallen to the women's rights administration,[30] and also to health, finance, interior, foreign, and education ministries from time to time.

Penal Code 1994

In the new Penal Code, pimping became a serious offence if associated with organised crime or barbarity, and overall was defined at three levels of severity with increasing fines, and prison sentences from five years up to life imprisonment. Clients were only criminalised if purchasing from minors under 15 years of age.

In 1998 sex tourism was added if offences against minors were committed by French residents outside France.[32]

International policy

In the 1990s France became increasingly assertive internationally as a champion of abolitionism, opposing moves towards liberalisation and regulation by the Netherlands and the Palermo 2000). French policy emphasised, along with the International Convention, that the real evil was prostitution, not trafficking, defined as an 'accompanying evil'. At the same time Nicole Péry, minister for women's rights (Secrétaire d'État aux droits des femmes; 1998–2002) included prostitution in her department's campaign on violence against women, calling it a form of violence at Beijing+5, (New York 2000).[34][35][36][37][38]

Loi Sarkozy (Loi pour la sécurité intérieure) 2003

Active solicitation was also outlawed in the late 1940s. Passive solicitation (being present with revealing clothes at locations known for prostitution) was outlawed in 2003 as part of a package of law-and-order measures by then interior minister,

  • US State Department Annual Human Rights Reports by country
  • Les Putes, A prostitute support group – website inactive
  • Cabiria-Union, working for the welfare and human rights of prostitutes in France
  • Les amis du bus des femmes Support group
  • Mouvement du nid Abolitionist group
  • STRASS STRASS: Syndicat du Travail Sexuel – Worker's union

External links


  1. ^ "Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema on trial over prostitute". BBC News. 
  2. ^ Madeline H. Caviness. Review of "Les Vitraux Légendaires de Chartres: Des Récits en Images" by Jean-Paul Deremble and Colette Manhes
  3. ^ Wolfgang Kemp "Sermo Corporeus: Die Erzählung der Mittelalterlichen Glasfenster". Speculum; Vol. 65, No. 4 (Oct., 1990), pp. 972–975.
  4. ^ Jane Williams has disputed that the windows were actually dedicated by the guilds, in The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles, 1987; published as: Bread, Wine & Money: the Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993
  5. ^ Cathédrale de Chartres: Parabole du fils prodigue
  6. ^ ; Feb 7 2008FabulaVéronique Bui. "Le châle jaune des prostituées au XIXe siècle : signe d'appartenance ou signe de reconnaissance?".
  7. ^ a b La Prostitution au moyen age; medieval.mrugala
  8. ^ a b Histoire de maisons.... closes mais d'un point de vue architectural !; batiweb. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  9. ^ "Histoire de la Rue Beaubourg". 
  10. ^ Jacques Rossiaud. Medieval Prostitution; trans. Lydia G. Cochrane, New York, 1988
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  12. ^ Le saviez-vous ? Rue du Poil-au-Con... urban trip paris Feb 2 2010
  13. ^ ; p. 363Realms of Memory: The construction of the French past. II: Traditions Pierre Nora, Lawrence D. Kritzman. Columbia University Press, 1997
  14. ^ In the 3rd arondissement from Porte Hydron to the Abbaye Saint Martin-des-Champs. Rue Transnonnain. Le Garde-mots Nov 23 2009
  15. ^ Parisians: an adventure history of Paris, by Graham Robb. Norton, 2010
  16. ^ "Cette ville est un autre monde, dedans, un monde florissant (2ème partie)". The Swedish Parrot. 
  17. ^ a b Die Schliessung der "Maisons closes" lag im Zug der Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15 October 1996. (German)
  18. ^ Kiedrowski, J.S., & Van Dijk, J.M. (1984). Working papers on Pornography and Prostitution Report 1. Pornography and prostitution in Denmark, France, West Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden, Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada. pp. 14–5
  19. ^ Scibelli, Pasqua (1987). Empowering prostitutes: A proposal for international legal reform. Harvard Women's Law Journal, 10, 117–157
  20. ^ Dirty Bertie's seat of pleasure, The Times, 17 January 2004
  21. ^ a b Genevieve Roberts (6 November 2009), "Sin city: show celebrates the Paris brothel that was loved by Cary Grant", The Independent (London) 
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  25. ^ Peter Allen, Sleeping with the enemy: How 'horizontal collaborators' in Paris brothels enjoyed a golden age entertaining Hitler's troops, Daily Mail, 1 May 2009
  26. ^ Loi no</sup> 46-685 du 13 avril 1946 dite « Marthe Richard » tendant à la fermeture des maisons de tolérance et au renforcement de la lutte contre le proxénétisme (in French).
  27. ^ Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. "A l’occasion des 60 ans de la loi Marthe Richard : un peu d’histoire. - Société - Points d’actu". 
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  29. ^ "Les politiques publiques et la prostitution. Rapport d'information sur l'activité de la délégation aux droits des femmes et à l'égalité des chances entre les hommes et les femmes pour l'année 2000". 
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  33. ^ The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases of prostitution in Southeast Asia edited by Lin Lean Lim, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1998.
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  35. ^ Pery N. 2001. Actualites. Ministère de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité, Secrétariat d'État aux Droits des femmes et à la Formation professionnelle, Service des droits des femmes et de l'égalité.
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  43. ^ Article L. 225-10-1 of the Code pénal defines passive soliciting (racolage passif) as "the act, by any means, even a passive attitude, to solicit another in the aim of inciting him or her to have sexual relations in exchange for remuneration or a promise of remuneration..."
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  49. ^ Anonyme. "A vous de le dire, Societe, Chantal Brunel nommée à la tête de l’Observatoire de la parité - Elle". 
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  57. ^ Projet de loi des finances pour 2004 État des crédits qui concourent aux actions en faveur des droits des femmes
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  70. ^ Les amis du Bus des femmes
  71. ^ a b Mme Claude Boucher (Les Amis du Bus de femmes) DÉLÉGATION AUX DROITS DES FEMMES ET À L'ÉGALITÉ DES CHANCES ENTRE LES HOMMES ET LES FEMMES, COMPTE RENDU N° 2 Mardi 15 octobre 2002 (Séance de 17 heures)
  72. ^ "Action de santé communautaire avec les personnes prostituées". 
  73. ^ "Act Up-Paris est une association de lutte contre le sida. Rejoignez-nous !". 
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  76. ^ Claude Boucher Défendre les travailleuses du sexe; Elizabeth Badinter Si c'est leur choix; Wassila Tamzali Le devoir d'interdire; Françoise de Panafieu Pourquoire j'ai tapé le poing sur la table. Le Nouvel Observateur August 22, 2002
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  78. ^ a b "Encore féministes ! Action n° 8". 
  79. ^ "Loi No 2003-239 pour la sécurité intérieure". 
  80. ^ Ministre déléguée auprès du ministre des affaires sociales, du travail et de la solidarité à la parité et à l'égalité professionnelle
  81. ^ "Site du sénat". 
  82. ^ a b 23 Oct 2002Le MondeM. Sarkozy défend son projet de loi sur la sécurité intérieure
  83. ^ "Les Français et l'insécurité,. La sécurité intérieure (1995-2005). Politiques publiques - repères -". 
  84. ^ "par une attitude même passive" was amended to "par sa tenue vestimentaire ou son attitudeProjet de Loi as presented to the Senate on October 23 2002 by M. Sarkozy. "
  85. ^ Hard on ladies of the night: The French government is cracking down on prostitution Economist Nov 7 2002
  86. ^ "Le projet de loi Sarkozy et la prostitution". 
  87. ^ a b "Projet de loi pour la sécurité intérieure". 
  88. ^ Tubiana, M., B. Marcus et al. Ligue des droits de l'Homme, Syndicat des Avocats de France, Syndicat de la Magistrature. "Lettre ouverte à Monsieur Sarkozy" Le Nouvel Observateur (2002)
  89. ^ "Marie-George Buffet s’invite". L'Humanité. 
  90. ^ Senat SEANCE DU 14 NOVEMBRE 2002 Comments of Mme Hélène Luc and M. Jacques Mahéas
  91. ^ Colas H. à Bordeaux, la justice distanciée par la police. L'Humanité Dec 20 2003
  92. ^ "Le Mur de Laine de Briques". Le Mur de Laine de Briques. 
  93. ^ Des associations constatent un timide reflux de la prostitution. Le Monde 4 Sept 2004
  94. ^ Agence France Presse 2004
  95. ^ Cimade Les prostituées en détention. 2004
  96. ^ "Women beyond the pale". 
  97. ^ Chartier C. le coup de la loi Chartier C. le coup de la loi. L'Express March 15, 2004
  98. ^ "Christophe Caresche, Pierre Schapira, Anne Hidalgo". Flickr - Photo Sharing!. 
  99. ^ By combining free prostitution and forced prostitution, which are totally different entities, by victimizing prostitutes without distinction, the law legitimizes and reinforces the symbolic violence, physical, police, and institutional. It also strengthens their insecurity, forcing them to work in areas far from public view, and especially it forces them to work harder since all have noticed that their customers are more scarce, and therefore their earnings have fallen 50% on average.
  100. ^ Blandine Grosjean. Des filles de joie bien à la peine. Libération 13 June 2003
  101. ^ Senat SEANCE DU 14 NOVEMBRE 2002 Comments of M. N Sarkozy.
  102. ^ "Non à la guerre aux prostituées -". 
  103. ^ Assemblée Nationale. Rapport D'information: Par La Commission Des Lois Constitutionnelles, De La Législation Et De L'administration Générale De La République, en conclusion des travaux d'une mission d'information sur la prostitution en France. April 13 2011
  104. ^ "France considers making prostitution illegal". 14 April 2011. 
  105. ^ "France - Sex clients could be fined, jailed under proposed law". France 24. 
  106. ^ "C'est une politique moraliste qui ne se soucie pas des travailleurs du sexe". Libé 
  107. ^ « Vers une proposition de loi sanctionnant les clients de prostituées par une contravention », in Le Figaro, mercredi 2 octobre 2013, page 12. (in French)
  108. ^ "French lower house passes bill to fine prostitutes' clients -". CNN. 4 December 2013. 
  109. ^ "Commission spéciale - Lutte contre le système prostitutionnel - Sénat". 
  110. ^ "Sanctionner les clients de prostituées : qui est pour, qui est contre ?". Le 
  111. ^ "French Senate's Special Comission Rejects Criminalisation of Clients". 
  112. ^ "Nos analyses". 
  113. ^ CSA
  114. ^ 2002 Survey results, CSA
  115. ^ CSA: Les Français et la réouverture des maisons closes 2002
  116. ^ L'opinion des Français à l'égard de la prostitution CSA avril 2006
  117. ^ "Fermées il y a soixante ans, les maisons closes font encore débat". 2 July 2015. 
  118. ^ "Mouvement du Nid". 
  119. ^ Medecins du monde. "Enquête de Médecins du Monde - auprès des personnes se prostituant". 
  120. ^ a b De plus en plus de prostituées africaines en France,, 7 May 2004. (French)
  121. ^ Jon Henley. "Prostitution row divides French feminists". the Guardian. 
  122. ^ Fotheringham, Alasdair (Dec 5, 2010). "Spain, the world capital of prostitution?". London:  
  123. ^ Storyville – Paris Brothel, BBC Four documentary, 2003
  124. ^ A Nice Mix of Art, History and Sex, Metropole Paris, 16 January 2004
  125. ^ "Maisons Closes 1860–1946", VINGT Paris News, 2009-12-08 


An exhibition about historical Paris brothels took place from November 2009 to January 2010 in an art gallery across the street from the former Le Chabanais.[21][125]

The Musée de l'Erotisme in Paris devotes one floor to the maisons closes. It exhibits Polissons et galipettes, a collection of short erotic silent movies that were used to entertain brothel visitors, and copies of Le Guide Rose, a contemporary brothel guide that also carried advertising.[124] The 2003 BBC Four documentary Storyville – Paris Brothel describes the maisons closes.

Amongst writers depicting the life of French sex workers are Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo (see bibliography).

Nicolas Sarkozy recognised that the traditional sex worker was part of France's national cultural heritage.[38] Paintings and drawings of maisons closes (brothels), and prostitution appear frequently in art over the centuries, some of which are shown here. Some of the best known are scenes in brothels produced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso, among others. Brassaï published photographs of brothels in his 1935 book Voluptés de Paris.[123] A voluminous illustrated work on the phenomenon is Maisons closes. L'histoire, l'art, la littérature, les moeurs by Romi (Robert Miquet), first published in 1952.

Prostitution and culture

In 2004, the average earnings of a French prostitute were estimated at €500 a day. For Sub-Saharian prostitutes living in France, it was less, around €200–300. Some barely made €50–150 a week.[120]


Meanwhile, Spain has exploited the difference between the two countries by opening brothels along the French-Spanish border.[122]

A 2010 proposal by Chantal Brunel for a return to regulated brothels was opposed by French sex workers (see Politics, above).

Brothels (Maisons closes) remain illegal but operate discretely and clandestinely. Since their official closure in 1946 there have been periodic calls for their re-opening. In 1990 Michèle Barzach (RPR), a former Minister of Health (1986–88) suggested re-opening them in 1990 as a public health measure.[30] A row erupted in 2002 with the proposal by Françoise de Panafieu (UMP), which divided French feminists, with Gisèle Halimi denouncing it, but Élisabeth Badinter seeing it as an issue of "the right to dispose freely of one's body".[77][78][121]

Maisons closes

Studies from 2003 estimated that about 15,000 – 20,000 women work as prostitutes in France.[120] In 2010, the number of full-time male and female prostitutes was estimated at 20,000 – 30,000, with 80% being foreigners.[50] Sex work in France, like other countries takes many forms. These include street prostitution, escort services, bars and apartment prostitution. Street prostitution is partly controlled by pimps, while other workers are autonomous prostitutes. In some areas, such as Lyon or the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, sex workers use vans (see illustration).[41] The most famous prostitution street in Paris, the la Rue Saint-Denis, has been somewhat gentrified in recent years and the prostitutes have been moved further north. Escort services where one hires a woman or man for "entertainment" or companionship, but usually including sex are less common in France, compared to North America. In bars, women try to induce men to buy expensive drinks along with sexual services. Prices are set by the bar owner, and the money is shared between the owner and the prostitute. Pigalle peepshows are well known for practising such scams. Prostitution in apartments is advertised in adult newspapers and magazines. Swingers' clubs are places where partner-swapping occurs and sometimes paid prostitutes are in attendance, as well as 'amateur' women and couples who get in without paying the flat-rate charge of about 80 to 120 euros that men pay, including food, drink and unlimited sex sessions, with the added twist that these are performed in the open in full view of all the guests.

Prostitutes working in vans in Lyon, France
Prostitute activist in Paris, 2005

Forms and extent of prostitution

In May 2011, the seventh anniversary of the introduction of the LSI, Médecins du Monde released a very critical report on the effect of the law, and called for its repeal.[119]

Expert opinion

CSA,[113] a polling organization, has carried out several surveys on prostitution in France. A 2002 telephone survey analyzed French attitudes about prostitution. 64% of respondents said that prostitution was "a degrading practice for the image and the dignity of the woman (or the man)". 66% of those questioned favored the reopening of the maisons closes (brothels – see Maisons closes, below), 37% wanted the clients to be criminalized, 22% wanted the prostitutes to be criminalized and 33% wanted all forms of prostitution to be illegal. When analyzed and broken down by age and gender, the survey showed that some people gave contradictory answers: for example some people appeared to favor both the reopening of the maisons (brothels) and the interdiction of all forms of prostitution (probably believing that both solutions would work, as the survey showed that most people were dissatisfied with the existing legal situation). Older people and men were more accepting of the idea of having legalized brothels.[114][115] In the 2006 poll, only 14% thought prostitution should be illegal.[116] Poll results reported in 2010 gave 59% in favor of reopening of the brothels, and 10% opposed.[50][51][117] Liberalization is opposed by prohibitionist groups such as Mouvement du Nid.[118]

Public opinion

Critics say most of the frames (nuisance, victim, deviant, security threat) in which sex work is discussed in France are constructed without the input of sex workers who are depicted as voiceless and agencyless. There are exceptions such as the French lesbian feminist Claudie Lesselier.[38][112]

Construction of prostitution

In October and November 2013, French lawmakers began debating a proposal to penalise clients of prostitution.[107] On December 4, the National Assembly passed a bill fining clients of prostitutes by 268 votes to 138, with 79 abstaining, which would impose fines of at least 1,500 on clients caught paying for sexual relations. Within the National Assembly, the majority of those who voted "yes" were MPs from the Socialist Party, which dominates this house.[108] The law was passed in the National Assembly on December 4, 2013.[109] This bill caused considerable controversy in France between politicians, intellectuals and feminists who are in favor of legalizing prostitution and those who are for a ban.[110] The bill was opposed by many sex workers and was rejected by the French Senate in July 2014.[111]

Proposal to penalise clients of prostitution (2011-2014)

In April 2011 a parliamentary commission report (En finir avec le mythe du 'plus vieux métier du monde) recommended the adoption of the Swedish approach of criminalising the purchase of sex.[103] The social affairs minister, Roselyne Bachelot, supported the proposal, stating "There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution...the sale of sexual acts means women's bodies are made available for men, independently of the wishes of those women." Other support came from Mouvement du Nid.[104] However the French sex worker mouvement STRASS has condemned the proposals.[105] [106]

2011 Parliamentary Commission

In April 2006 Senator Nicole Borvo (PCF) attempted to introduce a private bill to repeal the Sarkozy law arguing that it had been ineffective, and turned victims into criminals. The framework was very similar to the 2001 Deryck report, depicting prostitution as violence rather than law and order, and seeking punishment of exploiters but also measures for prevention and support. [38]

Changes to trafficking policy in 2003 were more influenced by European and international influence than domestic concerns, but trafficking was finally defined as well as giving victims residence permits in exchange for testimony. Critics doubted the practicality or whether the benefits were equally distributed between the women and the authorities, an expression of the tension between human rights and public security.

Further legislative attempts

In drawing this distinction, Sarkozy made frequent reference to the inability to speak French, constructing the issue as a defense of French. He suggested that this made them vulnerable to exploitation, and that the Police would take them home. This last point became a target of those who believed they were being sent back to the conditions that made them leave in the first place.[31][102]

"Far be it for me to suggest punishing these poor girls: the offense that we are creating must come to their aid ... I hope that these women will have a better future than facing degrading encounters night after night"

Sarkozy had made a sharp distinction between the "classic prostitution" of the traditional French Fille de Joie, who he depicted as unproblematic, even a cultural icon (see Culture) and the presence of "ces malheureuses filles étrangères" (these poor foreign girls) on the streets of France, who he depicted as the security threat. By "rescuing" these victims of trafficking and returning them home, he proposed to solve the situation. He argued that the only way to achieve this was to arrest them and then send them back to their families (Si le racolage est reconnu comme un délit, les forces de l'ordre pourront, parce qu'elles auront commis un délit, ramener ces filles chez elles), which he stated to be a humanitarian duty "c'est un devoir, dirai-je, humanitaire que de raccompagner cette personne chez elle" (I will say it is a humanitarian duty to return such a person to their home).[101]

[38] [100]

«En amalgamant prostitution libre et prostitution forcée, qui relèvent de processus totalement différents, en victimisant les personnes qui se prostituent, sans distinction, cette loi légitime et renforce les violences symboliques, physiques, policières, institutionnelles. Elle renforce aussi leur insécurité, les obligeant à investir des lieux éloignés des regards, d'autant plus qu'elle les contraint à travailler davantage puisque toutes ont vu leur clientèle se raréfier, et par conséquent leur revenu diminuer de 50 % en moyenne»[99]

Following the law coming into effect, 5,619 charges of passive solicitation were laid between March 2003 and July 2004, 90% of these were women, and most from Bulgaria and Albania (40%), Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Cameroon (35%). 15% were French nationals, another 10% from other areas in Africa and 2% from Asia.[93] There was a notable increase in foreign workers detained and deported. In 2004 the police dismantled many trafficking networks mainly involving Eastern Europe and Africa. [94] While the law referred to protection, shelter and reintegration there was no provision made for this according to Cimade, an NGO.[95] The results of the law were considered disastrous for the women who were supposed to be protected. The effects were largely those of displacement, pushing their activities into isolated areas, and the 3-7am timeslot, isolated them from service agencies, exposed them to violence and destroyed the historical working relationship with the police.[96][97] A study by Anne Hidalgo and Christophe Caresche Deputy mayors in the office of the Mayor of Paris (Bertrand Delanoë)[98] was especially critical:

Sarkozy did not attempt to produce a comprehensive policy on prostitution, but rather a quick fix, addressing immediate concerns of voters in terms of visibility.[87] In this he succeeded, at least in the short term. The police reported a 40% decrease in prevalence, but also that it had moved to more discrete areas and hours.[92] However the more profound effect was that Sarkozy had changed the framing of sex workers from victims to criminals, and tied it to immigration debates, focusing narrowly on street transactions. This avoided inconveniencing the middle class clients, who might have created more opposition. The governmental policy tended to portray all immigrant women in sex work, the most vulnerable, as victims of trafficking, and exploitation and their pimps as 'foreigners'.


In the Senate hearings into prostitution that year, Claude Boucher of Bus des Femmes, a sex worker support group, described how sex workers sell sex to survive, unable to make ends meet on social security or the minimum wage. To treat them as criminals, she argued, would just make them more vulnerable. "Cette loi n'est même pas une loi d'ordre moral, c'est une loi contre les exclus, contre les plus vulnérables" (This law is not even a public morals law, it is a law against those who are excluded, against the most vulnerable) [31] [38] [71]

The issue of passive solicitation caused particular concern since it could mean that any woman could be arrested for the way she dressed, and it was particularly hard to define. The judiciary were equally unhappy with evidence that solely consisted of police testimony and were reluctant to convict.[91] It was suggested that concern for victims for trafficking was hardly consistent with punishing them, and that prostitution had become conflated with trafficking. The trafficking policy seemed more aimed at the porousness of borders than at actual criminals, while migrant sex workers appeared to be particularly discriminated against, since they were simultaneously 'rescued' and deported without in any way addressing their vulnerability. Calls for aiming trafficking policy at traffickers rather than sex workers came from the Senate Law Commission, the Delegations for Women's Rights in the Senate and National Assembly, as well as from the opposition.

[90] Sarkozy was accused of exploiting people's insecurities. In the Senate the measures were seen to be street cleaning rather than addressing the causes of social problems and [89][88] as an attack on the poor, stating that no one chooses to be a beggar or a prostitute.[87] and human rights and poverty groups who saw this bill, which simultaneously addressed begging, squatting and assembling in public areas of buildings,[86] Criticism came from the left, trade unions, women's[85] Reactions included demonstrations and petitions.


Furthermore, the new legislation allowed for foreigners to have their permits revoked for disturbing public order, allowing deportation to become a penalty for solicitation (active or passive), even if they were legal immigrants. It addressed trafficking, by defining it and attached penalties. In the case of alleged victims of trafficking, collaboration allowed them to stay and work till their case was heard. If an exploiters were convicted (Article 76), they could then receive permanent residence. Finally, article 52 allowed for annual reports to be published on prostitution in France, from 2004 onwards.

Proposed Article 225-10-1 removed the necessity of the police having evidence of soliciting, allowing 'dress or posture' to be sufficient. He explained that it was inconvenient for the police to have to obtain evidence of active soliciting. In the Senate a Government amendment subsequently deleted reference to dress after a popular outcry.[84] Article 50 also criminalised purchase of sex from those considered 'particularly vulnerable', such as 'illness, disability, physical or mental deficiency or pregnancy'.

The Sarkozy bill both redefined prostitution and transformed policy, making solicitation, previously a minor offence, a serious offence (un délit) (up to six months imprisonment initially, but amended to two) with stiffer fines, and brought back passive solicitation as a crime (Article 50) Passive solicitation had been previously decriminalised by another right wing government, that of Balladur in 1994.

[83] In February 2002 a poll suggested security was the most important issue on people's minds in an election year, and in October 70% of the population considered the proposed measures necessary.[82] the more support.socio-economic class poll suggesting that 80% of people on minimum wage approved of his proposals and that the lower the Ipsos The Government position was that action against certain activities would improve the quality of life and sense of security of the poor, who are likely to be victims of crime. Sarkozy stated that the poor supported a tough crime agenda and that the general population wanted a stronger stand on law and order. In particular he cited an [82] In justifying these measures, Sarkozy claimed large segments of the population were exposed to 'anxiety and legitimate exasperation'. Article 42 addressed the protection of women in prostitution, considered victims of exploitation, and these were amplified by the Minister for Equality in the Workplace,

Legislation (Domestic Security Law) 2003

New issues arising in 2002 were local residents' complaints and the ascendacy of a law and order discourse on both left and right, leading to a heated debate,[76] notably the suggestion by Françoise de Panafieu (UMP) that the maisons closes (see Maisons closes below) be re-opened.[77][78] The issue of "security" became a major issue in the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2002. The catch-cry of "to save the Republic" worked in the favour of the right and President Jacques Chirac and Jean-Pierre Raffarin who came to power as Prime Minister that year. Nicolas Sarkozy became minister of the interior in the incoming right wing Rafferin government (2002–5), almost immediately announcing a Domestic Security Bill (Loi No 2003-239 pour la sécurité intérieure),[79] and the focus of the debates around prostitution shifted to legislation. (see Public opinion 2002, below)[31]

Security debates 2002

All parties claimed they spoke on behalf of and for sex workers, and shared a concern for their welfare, while denying their opponents did.[75] Therefore, both sides held a position that workers should not be penalised, positioned as either victims or legitimate workers.

[74]-Paris Isle-de-France condemned the UNESCO conference (above) as stigmatising.AIDES PASTT and [73] [72] Criticism of the dominant discourse came from prostitute' rights advocates, health associations such as Cabiria (Lyons),


State feminism culminated in the Bus des femmes.[70] But the focus of the outcry was trafficking, with an emphasis on Eastern Europe. However the new right wing government elected in 2002 (Jean-Pierre Raffarin) was to completely change the way prostitution was perceived (see below).[38][71]

The Senate inquiry (1999–2001)

In 1999 189 cases of pimping were tried, and 137 sentenced to prison. Generally the judiciary were satisfied with the existing legislation,[32] although 2000 also saw the creation of a new unit of the Judicial Police using information technology to combat pimping and trafficking. Transnational operators proved a problem to the police.[38]

La Fondation Scelles,[66] an abolitionist NGO, which also published Le livre noir de la prostitution, a strongly worded attack on the subject of prostitution.[67]

A manifestation of abolitionism was the declaration of May 18, 2000, published in the centre-left Le Nouvel Observateur, called "Le corps n'est pas une marchandise" ("the body is not a commodity"). This was signed by 35 prominent citizens and demanded that France and Europe affirm their commitment to the abolition of prostitution, resulting in a debate covering many aspects of the subject, such as choice, autonomy, voice and agency. Signatories included Francois Hollande, Robert Hue, Dominique Voynet, Isabelle Alonso, Boris Cyrulnik, Françoise Héritier and Antoinette Fouque.[60][61][62] That same week the Minister of Labour, Martine Aubry, proclaimed in the Assemblée nationale, that France would continue to defend its abolitionist position to prostitution, which was not acceptable and a violation of human rights.[63][64]

The 2000 manifestations

In the 1990s a number of changes shifted the focus of debates. These included an increasing globalisation of movements on both parts of the debate, Sweden and the Netherlands were moving to change their legislation in two distinct and different directions, there was political instability in Eastern Europe and there was also increasing concern about AIDS, while state feminists were also playing an increasing part in policy debates. There were however occasional dissenting voices such as the debate in Le Nouvel Observateur in 1999, sparked by the Dutch legislation.[59]

From the abolition of Réglementation and the maisons closes (1946) to the late 1990s there was a broad abolitionist consensus. This resulted from a close fit between the government position and the dominant sociopolitical discourse, making it acceptable to a broad coalition that included abolitionists, secular and religious NGOs, politicians from both ends of the political spectrum and most French feminists. This was so dominant under the Jospin years as to appear normative and non-ideological[58] and above any philosophical debate.[32] This provide abolitionists access to both the policy process and to resources, such as the 2000 UNESCO conference (see below), which had high profile support including important left wing figures such as Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Sylviane Agacinski, who was also married to Lionel Jospin.[31]

As in many other countries, debates on the nature and regulation of transactional sex are highly polarised. These positions are the familiar ones that define sex work as violence against women on the one hand, and those who see the problem as stigmatisation and poor working conditions on the other. These result in proposals for either the eradication of prostitution, or social reforms. The dominant abolitionist faction consists of Catholics, family values advocates and sections within feminism and the left. As elsewhere the term abolitionism has seen a shift from the abolition of Réglementation to include abolition of sexual slavery.

Political and social debates

This influence has waned under the security agenda of the succeeding right wing governments, but is still evident in the new political thinking as stated in Marie-Jo Zimmermann's (UMP) 2002 report to the Delegation on Women's Rights on prostitution[56] in which she echoes the left wing sentiment that the purchase of sex constitutes violence. The pervasiveness of this thinking is even found in the budget.[57]

State feminists dominated the discourse in the left-wing Jospin years, pursuing an anti-male-violence campaign. As Women's Minister, Nicole Péry, confirmed in her New York speech (see above), prostitution, as a form of male violence, was very much part of that State strategy.

State feminism

In June 2012, the socialist women's minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem announced that she wanted to abolish prostitution in France and in Europe.[41]

In 2010 Chantal Brunel, an MP in Sarkozy's ruling right-wing UMP party, and newly appointed head of the equality office,[49] called for legalizing and regulating maisons closes (brothels), (see Maisons closes, below) akin to the situation in several surrounding countries, claiming that this would make the sex trade safer and transparent.[50][51] She outlined the strategy in her 2010 book "Pour en finir avec les violences faites aux femmes" (An end to violence against women). This caused considerable discussion.[52] French prostitutes are opposed to this plan to legalize and regulate maisons, arguing that it would limit their options to make their own decisions—dozens of French prostitutes have marched to protest the proposal to legalize brothels. Instead, they demand the repeal of the 2003 law outlawing solication,[53][54] a demand that Chantal Brunel also supports.[55]

The 2007 Socialist Party Manifesto calls for holding clients "responsible". The vague language is due to the fact that such measures remain controversial in the Socialist Party.[48] The Manifesto also calls for repealing the ban on "passive solicitation".[48]

The cultural context is the concept of gender equality as stated in the preamble to the 1946 and 1958 constitution and which had seen an increasing momentum of political gains for women, including the establishment of a women's policy agency in 1974 and a ministry of women's rights in 1981. However a significant gap still exists in terms of economic and employment opportunities. Meanwhile, immigration policies have become increasingly restrictive, and soliciting can result in the removal of a migrant's work permit.[38]

At the municipal level there was evidence of sex workers being constructed as public nuisances that needed to be confined, and many mayors of both political groups responded to citizen groups to introduce by-laws restricting sex workers' activities in early 2002. This was fuelled by an apparent increased visibility. For instance Françoise de Panafieu (UMP delegate 17th arondissement) campaigned against street prostitution in the summer of 2002. The commitment to abolitionism prevented specific laws aimed at prostitution (which would have been seen as regulation) initially, so they often used traffic and parking by-laws to drive out workers, which ultimately mean that they were moved from well-lit busy areas to much more unsafe areas. As the discourse shifted from abolitionism to security, so did more explicit laws and regulations. This disquiet enabled Nicolas Sarkozy to later mobilise public anxiety about security evident in the elections that year in his Domestic Security bill.[31]

The issue has been prominent on the French political agenda since the late 1990s, responding to international pressures on child prostitution and pornography and trafficking, international distinctions between forced and voluntary entry into sex work (rejected by the dominant "abolitionist" discourse) and increasing migration. This has been accompanied by increasing discourse on la sécurité internally, which has gradually become dominant, affecting the framework in which prostitution is debated. This was heightened in 2002 when Jean-Pierre Raffarin's right wing government (2002–2005) succeeded the Gauche Plurielle (plural left) coalition of Lionel Jospin (1997–2002). The Jospin construction was that sex workers were victims and needed to be saved and reintegrated. This was a view shared by state feminists, ministers, delegates and the powerful abolitionist lobby and is reflected in the Derycke report as well as the National Commission on Violence Against Women,[36] as well as the debates on modern slavery (esclavage moderne).[47] These consultations in turn enabled agents of the civil society access to the policy process. Very few of these constructed prostitution as a legitimate form of work.

France is an "abolitionist" country—its public policy is the prohibition and eradication of prostitution, however at the same time, it considers that making it illegal to offer sexual services in return for goods or services in the context of one's private life is a violation of individual liberty.[42]


  • helping or protecting someone to prostitute themselves
  • profiting from the prostitution of another or receiving funds from someone who prostitutes themselves habitually (living off the avails)
  • hiring or training someone to prostitute themselves or pressuring someone to prostitute themselves.[46]

All forms of proxénétisme (procuring) are illegal.[45] Proxénétisme is defined as:

A man or woman may seek or offer compensation for sexual services (except for paying for those under 18) but may not advertise this fact.[42] Racolage (soliciting), including racolage passif (passive soliciting) is prohibited. This is defined as standing in a public place known for prostitution, dressed in revealing attire, and is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of €3750.[43][44] Owning or operating a brothel is illegal.[42]

Legal status

[41] Many prostitutes started to work out of vans, a strategy authorities attempted to combat using parking regulation enforcement.[40]

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