French Sex Workers Protest Anti-Sex Work Laws in Paris

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European Regional Correspondent

Quand les prostituées se mettent en colère: manifestation des travailleurs du sexe à Paris

On 8 April 2017 in Paris, sex workers protested the new law that criminalises clients, marking the 1-year anniversary of the introduction of the law.

The participants were holding banners that said “Stop our aggressors, not our clients”, “Stop HIV, not our Clients”, “Stop Repression, not our Clients”, “Sex Work is Work”. 

“We were 500 sex workers protesting against the law criminalising our clients as it has deteriorated our working conditions. Clients' bargaining power has increased so it is more difficult to impose our conditions. We have to adapt to clients' demands and there is more pressure to decrease our rates or accept sex without condoms,” said Thierry Schaffauser from STRASS who was interviewed by NSWP.

“Precariousness has become widespread with a reversal of power in favor of clients. With reduced bargaining power, increased displacement and isolation, sex workers are at greater risk to their health and safety, leading to a loss of health follow-up, treatment interruptions, and more evidence of violence,“ said HIV organisation AIDES in their call for the protest.

Since the introduction of the law penalising the purchase of sexual acts, more than 400 clients of sex workers were reported in Paris during police operations (and 937 at the national level).

As NSWP has previously reported, there have been cases of sex workers being murdered since the introduction of the new law. Laws that criminalise any aspect of sex work, including clients, increase risks of violence against sex workers. The government has not provided any help to sex workers to exit sex work, even though they promised to do so when they introduced the new law. “They claim it takes time,” said Thierry.

“Sex workers are still criminalised under local bylaws, procurement laws, and anti-immigration laws. One of our colleagues committed suicide because she was unable to pay her fines and her rent. Many sex workers have become desperate by lack of money. Violence has also increased because we are obliged to take more risk to maintain our level of incomes. Some colleagues have to travel to neighbor countries working for brothel owners while they used to be independent workers. Others have to pay third parties to organise appointments with clients in a discreet manner but all this has a cost. We continue to demand full decriminalisation & labour rights,” concluded Thierry.

You can read more about the harmfulness of the Swedish model here.