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Published On: Sat, Nov 30th, 2013

French Sex: “Come Once – Pay Twice” Said French Lawmakers

On Saturday, French lawmakers adopted legislation that bans the buying of sexual services and slams those who get caught in the act with a 1.500 euro fine.

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) , -The “come once and pay twice” legislation criminalizes clients of sex workers. Under the provisions of the new legislation, those who are caught in the act, so to speak, can be punished with a 1.500 euro (Apr 2.000 USD) fine. Repeat offenders risk being fined 3.700 euros. Alternatively, they can be offered a course that aims at raising their awareness about the risks that are involved in the sale of sex. Obviously, the French lawmakers just increased that risk with the risk of being fined 1.500 – 3.700 euros.

Toulouse-Lautrec_Prostitutes_DMANot surprisingly, especially after having been criminalized,  most of those who have reason to protest the legislation, that is regular and potential customers of sexual services, stayed away from public protests.

A few dozen rallied outside the parliament as the bill was passed into law. Most of them sex workers, who stood up for themselves and in solidarity to their now criminalized clients.

Prostitution, that is the selling of sexual services is allowed in France. Prohibited by law are pimping, the sale of sex by minors, and since Saturday, also the soliciting of sexual services.

Preventing Violence against Women – Protecting Trafficked Women

The bill was adopted after a highly charged political debate. The government argued, that the bill is aimed at preventing violence against women, and that the bill protects the large majority of women who are victims of trafficking rings.

Others among the French lawmakers warned that the bill would force sex workers further into the underground; which according to countless studies is a much more realistic assessment.

Others yet, argue that sex workers should have the right to determine what they are doing with their own bodies, which of course is a human right, but one that the new legislation does nothing about.

Maud Oliver, MP for the Socialist Party and one of the sponsors and fiercest proponents of the legislation said, demagogically:

“One prostitute declares herself free and the slavery of others becomes respectable and acceptable?” … How can you find glamorous the 10 to 15 penetrations a day endured by prostitutes for economic reasons with dramatic consequences on their health?”

It is true that some trafficked women are subject to such abuse, not only in France but other EU member states too. One sex worker from an African country, who had been trafficked to Denmark, and who received about 5 Euro on the 200 Euro she made per client, on average, was brought to a hospital because of blood loss – after 8 clients.

The problem with political demagoguics like that used by Maud Oliver however is, that the new legislation does not even begin to address problems with trafficking.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Womens’ Rights Minister, said that France is not a country that welcomes prostitution, adding:

“The question is not sexuality. We are not here to be a moral police… the question is about money that feeds pimping”. 

Since Najat Vallaud-Belkacem implies that pimping is immoral, while sexuality is not, was it not justified to ask whether it is immoral to pass a law that does not do anything against pimping ?

The head of the parliamentary commission responsible for drafting the legislation, Guy Geoffroy, defended the legislation saying that it advances womens’ rights. Geoffroy, a member of the main French opposition party UMP, used rhetorical questions to defend the legislation, such as:

“We talk about the satisfaction of male desires but what are we doing about female desires?” 

The implied statement does not say much, if anything, other than that elicits the fact that the entire debate did not address the question whether the long arm of French law also wants to slam a “Come Once – Pay Twice” fine on women who buy sexual services. The entire debate was terribly gender biased.

Naturally, what Geoffroy wanted to imply, was that women generally don’t desire to sell sexual services while he is omitting the fact that many do so, rather than prostituting themselves by packing Euro pallets at supermarket distribution centers, at night, at minimum wage.

Nothing in the Legislation that prevents Violence, nothing that protects trafficked women, nothing that advances Women’s Rights, and nothing that aims against Pimps and protects Sex Workers’ Rights. 

The arguments put forward by Oliver, Vallaud-Belkacem, Geoffroy and other proponents of the bill make brilliant examples for the use of demogogic and rhetoric in political debate.

That said, the legislation does not address any of the issues the proponents claim to address. Hardly anyone argues that it would be appropriate:

  • To prevent violence against women
  • To prevent pimping
  • To protect trafficked women and most importantly, prevent trafficking

The problem is that the criminalization of the soliciting of sexual services does not address any of those issues, and arguably, put women in greater danger.

Initiatives which could protect both female and male sex workers as well as their customers would include the following measures:

  • Legalizing collectively owned brothels, which are co-owned and administrated by sex workers who are working in the brothels or by retired sex workers.
  • Legalizing prostitution from private apartments as legitimate, self-owned business should be considered for registered escort sex workers. Escort agencies should be owned by active or retired sex workers.
  • Legislation that outlaws the ownership or part-ownership of brothels by not registered sex workers or former sex workers. The industry should be owned by those working in the industry and not by venture capital.
  • The registration of a business should not be too complicated or expensive, as it is in Australia, where the result is that the industry attracts venture capital instead of businesses being owned by those who are or have been working in the industry.
  • Registration of all sex workers and regular, free of charge, monthly medical examinations for STDs and other physiological problems known to be related to sex work.
  • Drug tests to prevent prostitution to finance substance abuse. Appropriate treatment for substance abuse included.
  • Establishment of a nationwide police task force, including hotlines, to counter pimping , and to protect the businesses of sex workers from racketeering. Sex businesses should enjoy the protections that are equivalent to the protection which police affords to other businesses, such as banks, bars, etc.
  • A serious effort against the trafficking of sex workers, both within the context of the above mentioned hotline and task force, as well as within the framework of the regular controls of work permits and health certificates in registered, self-owned brothels.
  • Countering the illegal trafficking of sex workers further, by self-regulating market mechanisms. It is estimated that more than 75 % of the approximately 20.000 – 30.000 sex workers in France are from other countries. Brothels, owned by sex workers or former sex workers should be able to advertise with “job advertisements” at “legally registered”, state or private employment agencies, as well as in appropriate newspapers and other media. There is no reason to treat sex workers who are working in France without a permit differently from anyone else who is working in the country without the necessary working permit.
  • Increased resources to counter any form of illegal sex work, including non-registered brothels and sex workers. Increased resources for countering the professional sexual abuse of minors, including cases that include corruption and involves high-ranking government officials, such as in the case of Joris Demmink in The Netherlands.

Other measures which would address the problems which are related to prostitution could include:

  • The recognition of eventual physical and psychological trauma as work-related, and the appropriate, health insurance covered treatment for such work-related injuries without discrimination.
  • Increased resources to counter pedophile networks and the professional, sexual abuse of minors.
  • Public education campaigns aimed at “normalizing” the population’s attitude towards sex workers in a respectful manner.

The new “Come Once – Pay Twice” legislation would be ridiculous if it was not for the fact that this type of legislation is bound to have the opposite effect of what its proponents claim it should have.

Ch/L – nsnbc 30.11.2013

Related articles:

The immorality of Australia’s prostitution laws

Are SE Asia’s karaoke girls deprived of opportunity?

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at

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  1. I’ve been doing sex work of various sorts since 2001. In all that time I never once witnessed someone being forced or pimped. I never witnessed any underage children and had I you better believe I would have done something. What people don’t get unless they have experience in the industry, is that there are vastly different circumstances throughout the realm of sex based services. How is it that I never came across any of the horrors you are reading about as the reality of sex work? I’ve had an overall positive experience and I do enjoy my work. Should healthy sex workers be adversely effected having their lives devastated because of what’s going on around the subject of trafficking? Perhaps this is not the case in other nations, but American based sex work, outside of gang culture, consists mostly of independent providers who work for themselves not pimps! That IS the reality. And let me tell you, in all the years I’ve worked, there are more people entering sex work now than I’ve ever seen! The ECONOMY is driving people into sex work. At the same time we are seeing new draconian legislation being introduced throughout the world further criminalizing sex work. You do the math, because I think someone else already has. More poverty + more people entering the sex trade by choice due to poverty + harsher laws that have harsher penalties = MORE FUNDING FOR THE STATE!!! I think someone at the top of the pyramid scheme knows EXACTLY what they are doing!

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