PARIS AP — France's government is pushing one of Europe's toughest laws against prostitution and sex trafficking, and other countries are watching closely. Advocates hope that a draft French law going to parliament Wednesday will help change long-held attitudes toward the world's oldest profession — by punishing the customer and protecting the prostitute. The bill, however, is facing resistance in a country with a libertine reputation and a Mediterranean macho streak, and has prompted petitions defending those who buy sex.
atories include screen icon Catherine Deneuve —who played a prostitute in the cult film "Belle de Jour" — and crooner Charles Aznavour. Prostitution is currently legal in France, but brothels, pimping and soliciting in public are illegal.
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The bill has prompted debate about sex and sexism in France, where former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is facing charges of aggravated pimping. He denies wrongdoing, though his lawyer has defended Strauss-Kahn's free-wheeling sex life. It has also called attention to the evolution of the sex business, as the of foreign prostitutes, especially from Asia and eastern Europe, has soared in recent years.
They could also be forced to attend classes aimed at highlighting the harms of prostitution.
The bill aims to decriminalize the estimated 40, prostitutes in France, by scrapping a law that bans soliciting on the streets, and making it easier for foreign prostitutes to remain legally in France if they enter a process to get out of prostitution. One of the bill's authors, Maud Olivier, says it's about "getting rid the consequence of unequal and archaic relationships between men and women.
Other countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where brothels are legal, are especially interested in the French experience. The proposed law —written by a group of lawmakers from both right and left and backed by the Socialist government— follows the example of Sweden, which passed similar legislation in A report commissioned by the Swedish government showed that the of people involved in street prostitution in Sweden's three largest cities dropped from around in to a year in the 10 years after that.
At the same time, street prostitution in neighboring Norway and Denmark increased.
For most americans, prostitution in europe likely calls to mind amsterdam's red-light district. in , the netherlands was one of the first countries to legalize and regulate prostitution
The Netherlands went the nice way, legalizing prostitution in But the policy has come in for criticism for playing into the hands of criminals and human traffickers who exploit women. The government is now aiming to crack france on human trafficking by tightening laws. Supporters of the French draft law argue that it could reduce sex trafficking and empower prostitutes.
When we hear about 'prostitution by choice,' I street that it is still prostitution as violence toward women, and we cannot keep tolerating that violence anymore," said Rosen Hicher, 57, who was a prostitute from to But another one wouldn't because she would be under control of a pimp or would be sold by her prostitution, her father or her brother.
Opponents of the French bill argue the opposite, and fear that cracking down will push prostitutes into a dangerous position: Being forced to hide, they would be even more at the mercy of pimps and violent clients, and cut off from the organizations able to help them. And in dealings with the client, he said, prostitutes would "have less power because when you make less profit, you might have to accept clients that you wouldn't normally accept, accept doing something you might not have accepted before.
While laws vary, europe has a more permissive attitude towards prostitution than in the us. in germany, switzerland, austria, greece, turkey, the netherlands, hungary, and latvia, prostitution is legal and regulated. in other countries, it is legal but not regulated.
A contentious open letter titled "Hands off my whore" was released last month by a group of men, including a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, in favor of a man's right to buy physical pleasure. And earlier this month, a petition emerged, ed by 60 celebrities, including Deneuve and Aznavour, saying: "Without supporting or promoting prostitution, we reject the penalization of those who prostitute themselves and those who buy their services, and we ask for a real debate without ideological prejudice.
Among them was a former minister of culture and education, Jack Lang, who told the AP that he is "very cautious about penalizing clients — for reasons of principle, of personal belief, kind of subjective reasons. That must not be a hasty decision.
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