The French Senate, which holds a conservative party majority, threw out on Wednesday a bill passed by the National Assembly in 2013 that intends to punish the clients of sex workers, making them liable for fines of up to 1,500 euros for a first offence and 3,750 euros for repeated breaches.
“An act that protects the sex workers and makes the clients more accountable is desperately needed”, said Health Minister Marisol Touraine.
“The bill aims to discourage the demand and so reduce slave-trafficking networks and pimping”, also said Secretary of State for Women’s Rights Pascale Boistard.
Instead, senators voted (190 to 117) against the bill.
They have argued that many prostitutes’ rights groups are against such a criminalisation of clients.
Sex workers and ginger groups, who have opposed the plan, say it can lead prostitutes to hide from police and go off the streets, exposing them to more violence and abuses.
Although the consevative Senate voted in 2003 a law against passive soliciting in favour of criminalising prostitutes, it stroke out this offence on Wednesday.
The bill to punish prostitutes' clients must therefore now be discussed by a conciliation committee to find a joint version for both Houses of Parliament.
If not, the National Assembly, which has a left-wing majority, will have the last world.