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The abolition of prostitution, a French reality: a 3-year assessment of the 2016-444 Law

An increasing number of countries are adopting the Nordic Model or are considering doing so. Furthermore, the 3rd World Congress against sexual exploitation is spreading its abolitionist message throughout Germany. While this is occurring, today, France is celebrating the 3rd anniversary of the implementation of its law reinforcing the fight against the prostitutional system. Thus, this prevents an opportunity for us to assess the profound revolution that the law has allowed.



Sources: International Observatory for Sexual Exploitation Press Review/Collection of Academic Proceedings ©FondationScelles


Three years after its adoption, the implementation of the 2016-444 law “aimed at reinforcing the fight against the prostitutional system and to aid prostituted persons” of April 2016 has accelerated significantly. These past few months, marked by criticism and violent attacks, have not been easy. However, the rejection of the QPC, calling into question the principle of penalizing sex buyers of prostitution by the Constitutional Council in January of 2019 allowed for the law to be reaffirmed, thus it emerged strengthened by this controversy.


2016-2019: 3 years of the law’s enforcement


-       Working committees and protected victims…


So far, there are 65 established committees, 78 authorized associations and around 150 people in the process of leaving prostitution. Other committees should be established by the end of 2019.


Admittedly, there are still existing disparities between regions, and the level of progress made by divisions varies greatly. Some committees have been established, but are not yet active. Other divisions have not yet been created by their committees. This is not to say that these regions are inactive. In Aube, for example, the committee has yet to be created (as a result of the absence of a specialized organization capable of receiving such accreditation), however work to raise awareness among department professionals has been undertaken in the region.


On the contrary, some regions have worked actively within the framework of the law: some divisions have already held their third or fourth committee meetings (Haute-Vienne, Tarn-et-Garonne…); some working groups have been established to work on strategic plans of action, partnerships have been created by the establishment of these committees (for example in Oise, a syndicate of the hotel industry is a member of the committee); common tools have been create to inform and raise awareness among the public…


Sources: International Observatory for Sexual Exploitation Press Review/Collection of Academic Proceedings ©FondationScelles


-       Raised awareness among sex buyers…


More than 4000 men have been fined for using prostitution, including on the internet. This measure has been applied in a growing number of regions. Similarly, awareness-raising courses, which are used as an alternative to criminal prosecutions for men found guilty of this crime, have been established.


Thus, the Association for Applied Criminal Policy and Social Reintegration (APCARS – Association de Politique Criminelle Appliquée et de Réinsertion Sociale) and the Scelles Foundation led almost 20 sessions between December 2017 and April 2019, for more than 150 participants. Beginning in May 2019, the pace of these sessions will further accelerate, with 3 courses being offered per month, and 10 people participating in each session. The assessment thus far has been positive. The objective, which is to deconstruct clichés, create an understanding of the foundations of the law and to present the realities of prostitution through dialogue has indeed appeared to be reached: 100% of people who have completed questionnaires issues at the end of the sessions have said that they no longer have the same opinions of the prostitutional system, and 89% have claimed that they will no longer be involved.





Towards societal change …

Beyond numerical data, the change created by the law is more profound, and is starting to be substantially felt.


-       A generalized awareness


Today, prostitution is at the heart of political debates in every sector. The implementation of the law presented an occasion to take stock of the phenomenon through local diagnostic actions of the current situations. A number of divisions have been surprised to discover the existence of prostitution in their region, and have studied its different forms: an often-hidden prostitution in cities but also in rural areas, prostitution for survival, sex tours, a growing number of adolescent victims…


-       Another perception of prostitution


The coming together of many actors from different sectors (representatives of the State and regional collectives, judges, health and education professions, registered associations…) within committees,as well astheir communal work has begun to bring out another approach to prostitution. Some examples demonstrate this new approach. For example, the relationship between the police and prostituted persons has begun to evolve: in Oise, the police went to meet prostituted persons to present to them exit routes; in Fontainebleau, which was one of the first jurisdictions to enforce the law, a relationship of trust has been established, and prostituted persons have been bringing forth more reports. Similarly, violence against prostituted persons have been taken into account and have been more harshly penalized: in October of 2018 in Evreux, two men who had beaten a prostituted person were sentenced to 6 months in prison for aggravated robbery, resisting arrest, and for using prostitution.


>>Loi prostitution : Les commissions départementales entrent en action


>>Interview de Guillaume Lescaux, 1er Procureur à appliquer la loi sur la prostitution


>>LOI PROSTITUTION en France : entrée envigueur du stage de sensibilisation des clients


2020 objective: step it up


Throughout the past 3 years, the law has proven its viability and effectiveness. Now, we must intensify its implementation.


-       A systematic and homogenous enforcement of the law


The law aims to apprehend the prostitutional problem on a global scale, through all aspects of prevention, repression, victim protection… however, it is not always perceived as such. So far, only two aspects of the law have been truly identified and implemented: the penalization of sex buyers and creating exit routes out of prostitution. Preventative measures aimed at university and high school students, as well as the reinforcement of the fight against internet procuring remain sparingly implemented, and are more or less understood by the implicated participants. Similarly, the message of the lawis not always well understood: some anti-prostitution bylaws remain active in certain municipalities. Eliminating these regional disparities, extending the application of the law to all regions and homogenizing its enforcement are the more urgent matters.


-       Financing needed to meet objectives


Decreases in state funding for creating exit routes out of prostitution that were seen in 2018 will continue into 2019. In 2018, the budget allocated for accompanying victim was reduced from 6.8 million EUR to 5 million EUR, thus reducing funding for the Financial Assistance for Social and Vocational Integration (AFIS - l’aidefinancière à l’insertionsociale et professionnelle), which helps people in their exit from prostitution, as well as some of the funding allocated to organizations. The 2019 further reduced funding, allocating the AFIS from 2 million EUR (as opposed to 3 million EUR allocated in 2018) and reducing resources allocated to Centers for Housing and Social Reintegration (CHRS – Centresd’hébergement et de reinsertion sociale).


-       The government’s momentum


These objectives would not be able to be reached without the support and momentum of the government. A directive is needed to bring local policies into line with the April 2016 law. Furthermore, a homogenized and systematic application of the law throughout the country is necessary.


Changing society and the way we look at prostitution is a long-term project. We’re counting on the government to take this on.



The Scelles Foundation in the press

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