Under the new legislation, which was voted in yesterday, clients can be fined £1,200 or even jailed for six months
Paying for sex will become illegal in France after a strict anti-vice law was voted in by MPs.
Under the new legislation, which was passed yesterday, people who pay for sex can be fined £1,200 or even sent to prison for six months.
The bill is aimed at preventing violence against women and ultimately to make prostitution disappear from the country completely, the government say.
But the move has provoked widespread opposition from sex workers, who argue the measure will hurt prostitutes by driving the practice further underground.
The bill was first backed by the French parliament in 2013, but it was finally rejected by the upper house the Senate.
It will now go before parliament again today, where a majority of MPs support the measure, and will also have the final say on whether or not it becomes law.
The bill will also overturn a 2003 law that made it illegal for prostitutes to solicit for sex.
So the new law will effectively make the client the criminal for buying sex rather than the prostitute for selling it.
French Socialist MP Maud Olivier, who has been the driving force behind the change in law, said it was ‘fundamental to reverse this balance of power’.
She said: “Clients have to be made aware that their money feeds prostitution rings and that prostitutes should be seen as victims of trafficking or the economic situation rather than a commodity.”
But the sex workers’ union Strass said the law will simply force prostitutes to work in more secluded and dangerous areas where clients will feel safe from the eyes of the police.
Strass spokeswoman Morgane Merteuil said: “We will simply face more poverty, more violence and more stigmatization.
“Prostitutes will be forced to work in remote places, hidden away so as not to risk being discovered by the police.”
A Toulouse sex worker named Manon, 26, told the French media: “It means we will be more exposed to violence, theft and rape.
“It will also be more difficult for aid associations and charities to contact the prostitutes so it will be harder for them to try to prevent risky practices, or identify sex workers who may be in trouble and help them get access to housing.”
“It is already difficult to go to the police and make a complaint and this law would make it even harder. Those who attack or rape prostitutes know this and the number of attacks and rapes will only increase”.
A group of French intellectuals also blasted the move in an open letter.
They argued that the idea of abolishing prostitution was based on two ‘debatable’ assumptions – that charging for sex is an affront to women’s dignity and that prostitutes are all victims of their ‘bastard’ clients.
The letter added: “A women who prostitutes herself, whether she does so occasionally or full-time, is not necessarily a victim of male oppression.
“And the clients are not all horrible predators or sexual obsessives who treat the woman as disposable objects.”
There are an estimated 40,000 sex workers in France, some 80 to 90 percent of whom are believed to be foreign, with many being victims of trafficking.
In Britain, prostitution and paying for sex are legal if the girl is over 18 and not acting under duress. But related activities including public soliciting, kerb crawling, keeping a brothel and pimping are all outlawed.
In Europe, only Sweden and Norway have made it illegal to pay for sex.