Good start for the implementation of the French Sex Purchase Act is creating opposition

As the fifth country in the world, France voted in a Sex Purchase Act in accordance with the Swedish model almost three years ago. Within the abolitionist movement, we cheered, since that meant taking a big step forward in the fight against sex-trafficking and prostitution. However, the norm-breaking law faces criticism also in France.

The law was adopted on the 13th of April 2016 and the implementation has shown positive effects. Around 5000 sex buyers have been arrested, and prostitution has been exposed in areas where it was previously unknown. For example, the preventative work has been increased to protect minors. However, the reactions have been clear, since the law prevents sex purchaser’s ability to take advantage of people in prostitution.

One example of this is that the Human rights organisation Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the world), presented a report last spring, in which the Sex Purchase Act was described in negative terms. They mean, among other advocates for ”pro-sex work” that the law has impaired the” working conditions” of people in prostitution, for example by being forced to work in more risk filled areas that the police avoid. Later during the summer when Vanesa Campos, a woman in prostitution, was found murdered in the forest Bois de Boulogne, the act was accused of being the underlying cause. This became another argument for why the Sex Purchase Act should be repealed and nine organizations, including Médecins du mode, Syndicat du travail sexual (Strass) and other organs that advocate for ”pro-sexwork”, sent in an appeal of the act to the Council of State. They will in turn send it to the Constitutional Council.

l’Amicale du Nid and Fondation Scelles are two of all of the organizations that have campaigned for a Sex Purchase Act and against the system of prostitution in France. They in turn reacted to the report from Médecins du Monde and the weak link to a scientific ground for the accusations. That it is harmful to be involved in prostitution is a fact, which was the starting point for the formulation of the Swedish model and the Sex Purchase Act. Persons in prostitution are constantly being over exposed to violence and live under threat. This can be read about in the report Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries. Violence is also a part of the porn industry, where it is not unusual that those who watch porn seek to live out a destructive sexuality, for example through sex purchases. There has always been a stigma around being in prostitution and that goes also for those countries in which prostitution is legalized. Prostitution can never be regarded as a profession but is instead all about power. The sex would not have taken place without compensation.

Another confirmation of the importance of the Sex Purchase Act happened on the first of February, when the French Constitutional Council decided that the act would not be repealed. RealStars welcome the joyful decision that the Sex Purchase Act still stands, and will, alongside other abolitionist organizations raise the importance of a continued focus on the demand, in order to fight sex-trafficking and prostitution. We also shed light on the fact that it is deeply problematic that big and established human rights organisations like Médecins du Monde, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch still have a view that supports policies that disfavour the efforts to combat sex trafficking. In order to end sex trafficking and prostitution, it is of highest importance that this view is changed, and that myths are punctuated and showcased.