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French MPs on Tuesday approved a new law that proponents say will protect sex workers by shifting the burden of the offense onto clients, but some prostitutes are crying foul. The French union of sex workers Strass, its acronym in France called on members and supporters to protest the "repressive" bill outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers adopted the reform into law.
The legislation outlaws paying for sex, imposes fines for clients and overturns the existing ban on solicitation. The comprehensive approach, which envisions an eventual eradication of prostitution, has earned support among other French organisations that assist and defend sex workers.
The law comes after more than two years of political wrangling, spurring heated debates — even among prostitutes — on the controversial topic. The bill was authored by Socialist MP Maud Olivier - who represents the Essone department near Paris - who has made the fight against prostitution her personal crusade. Olivier says the law will help authorities tackle pimping and human trafficking, protect victims and help them escape the sex trade.
It will also help better educate young people and clients of the harm caused by prostitution. Strass and other French advocacy groups disagree. The new law does nothing to help sex workers — of whom there are around 30, in France, according to official estimates — and even makes them more vulnerable, according to Strass. The law stipulates people have to stop prostituting themselves in order to qualify for cash stipends and other aid.
Le Mouvement du Nid Movement of the Nest , a group that advocates for the abolition of prostitution, but also helps sex workers access medical attention, legal counsel and defends them from harassment, has mounted a detailed and impassioned defence of the legislation.