Rosen Hicher arrived at Paris’s Porte d’Orléans on Sunday after a 39-day walk from the town of Saintes, near Bordeaux, in the west of France.
Hicher, who was a prostitute for 22 years before quitting in 2009, wants the upper house of the French parliament to overturn a committee’s decision to block an anti-prostitution bill that would have introduced a fine of 1,500 euros for customers paying for sex.
Other measures proposed included beefing up the fight against pimping, helping victims, providing alternatives to prostitution and an educational programme aimed at young people.
Although the bill was passed by the National Assembly, a special Senate committee blocked the proposal to fine clients, arguing that it would not be effective in tackling pimping networks and would drive prostitution further underground.
The Senate is not at present programmed to debate the bill, even in its amended form.
Hicher called on the Senate to “wake up” and put the bill back on its agenda.
“Nobody has the right to buy a woman, to put her up for sale,” she told RFI.
“I got a lot of support along the way,” Hicher said. “I met a lot of local politicians who agree with our point of view - because we’re now a big movement - they encouraged me to continue.”
She also met men who admitted to having used prostitutes.
“They said it hadn’t given them anything, that it had been a failure, a sexual failure and a failure in their life, a sentiment of frustration. They came and walked along with me because they realised that prostitution is violence.”
An appeal in the Journal du Dimanche Sunday newspaper supporting her stance was signed by the mayors of a number of towns, including Paris’s Anne Hidalgo and Strasbourg’s Rolland Ries, both Socialists, but also some right-wing mayors, including Orléans’s Serge Grouard and Mulhouse’s Jean Rottner.
The junior minister for women’s rights Pascale Boistard met Hicher on her arrival in Paris.
“I came to be at her side and shine the spotlight on this important question,” she said.
“We can’t accept in a country like ours that women end up being prostitutes, are in the hands of mafia networks and are victims of daily physical and mental violence.”
Hucher said she was moved by Boistard’s welcome.
“Now the fight has to continue, it has to move forward,” she commented. “We’ll win this battle. For me it’s the finest of the 21st century.”