After parliament commissioned a report on prostitution, Social Affairs Minister Roselyne Bachelot told a parliamentary select committee on Wednesday that she favoured such an approach, which is already used in Sweden.
“There is no such thing as prostitution which is freely chosen and consenting, Bachelot declared. “The sale of sexual acts means that women’s bodies are made available, for men, independently of the wishes of those women.”
In mid-April, the committee is to publish its conclusions, which could include a recommendation to change the law, but there would be no vote, or implementation of any such law, before 2012.
MPs are considering introducing fines for clients, and even prison sentences.
Most organisations concerned with prostitution have welcomed Bachelot’s stance.
“It’s a step in the right direction”, said Claire Quidet of the Mouvement du Nid, which wants prostitution outlawed. “Society must impose limits, you do not buy a sex act.”
But Isabelle Schweiger of sex-workers’ union Strass is worried that the proposed change would merely push prostitution underground.
Some groups want the 2003 law which prohibits soliciting for sex, to be abolished.
Annie Guilberteau of the CNIDFF, which campaigns for women’s and families’ rights, maintains the current law merely displaces the sale of sex, pushing it onto the internet or out of towns and into more isolated areas which are more dangerous.
Bachelot does not intend to repeal the law, but a government source explained that it will almost certainly be dropped next year, to conform with European Union directives on the issue of double jeopardy.