So, France recently re-criminalized prostitution, as have other countries in Europe. (I’ve previously shared my opinion on legalized prostitution here; not re-arguing the issue at this post, just noting some legal absurdities.) As the Atlantic article notes:
Unlike historical prostitution bans that penalize sex workers, the new laws target customers, making the purchase of sex illegal rather than its sale. Anyone caught paying for sexual services in France will be subject to a fine of €1,500, rising to a maximum of €3,750 for repeat offenders. This follows a model established in Sweden in 1999, but no country as large as France has yet tried anything similar. Beyond destroying their business, the new rules are supposed to go a little easier on prostitutes themselves. A law that fines prostitutes caught soliciting, introduced under Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, will be repealed. French prostitutes will also get support to leave the business, in the form of easier access to working papers (many are non-EU nationals), housing and a transitional stipend of €383 a month.
I don’t get the ‘logic’, if there is any, behind this. If the intent is to actually make the practice illegal, shouldn’t both the seller of the service, and the purchaser, be equally targeted? And in any case, if Party A sells something to Party B which is illegal for Party B to purchase, is Party A not aiding and abetting a crime? On that basis alone, why should Party A not be charged with commission of aiding and abetting an illegal activity? Ostensibly, the aim of this legislation is thus:
The issue driving the recent bans, however, is really that of human trafficking. According to a EU-funded report, over 23,000 people were trafficked in Europe between the years 2008 to 2010, and 62 percent of them for were destined for sexual exploitation. While pro-prostitution debate often focuses on a hypothetical free woman making an entirely unforced choice, the reality is that many European prostitutes have no such freedom. According to anti-trafficking campaigners, legal prostitution is making this situation worse, giving pimps and traffickers ways to operate further and hide their victims in plain sight. Abolishing legal prostitution does seem to reduce trafficking. In Sweden, prostitution has plummeted since a 1999 ban on buying sex. In 2007, Der Spiegel reported a maximum of 130 prostitutes working in Stockholm, compared to 5,000 in its smaller Norwegian neighbor Oslo (which in 2009, followed Sweden’s ban with its own). And while an estimated 600 women are believed to be trafficked into Sweden every year, this number pails in comparison to the 15,000 trafficked annually to Finland, a country with a population half the size.
Well, if that be so, then why not still fine anyone who voluntarily engages in providing such services, while not punishing anyone who is forced into it? After all, if the only way to stomp out human trafficking is to ban all forms of prostitution, then shouldn’t non-forced whores who willingly prostitute themselves also be targeted, so as to render the sale of sex completely unavailable? Why let such women, who voluntarily choose such an occupation, as opposed to those forced into it, off the hook? Again, they’re aiding and abetting what is an offense for their clients to purchase. Why no punishment?
Regardless of one’s opinion on what ought to be, regarding the legality or not of the immoral practice of prostitution, if it is to be banned, shouldn’t all involved be equally targeted by the law? If not, frankly, regardless of the purposes / intents behind such legislation, it’s simply anti-male, punishing johns but not whores. It is illogical, and makes no sense – unless, of course, the real aim is simply to punish the men who purchase such services, because other European women are upset that such options are available to men, legally – or at least have been, till now. After all, who is calling for similar legislation in Germany?
Germany’s Federal Statistics Office estimates that the country’s sex trade is responsible for €15 billion in economic activity each year, but it seems many Germans are now regretting the shift to legal prostitution. Influential feminist magazine Emma has launched a campaign to get it repealed, and they seem to be winning politicians over. The incoming coalition government plans to revise prostitution laws, and have just agreed to ban “flat rate” brothels, where customers can purchase unlimited sex during a single visit for a fixed fee. They are also making it a crime to buy sex from someone who has been trafficked.
Feminists. Of course. It would be feminists who call for the men who purchase but not the women who sell, to be punished, wouldn’t it? Does anyone really think their concern is purely for the victims of human trafficking?
The Atlantic article notes that the centre-right opposition party in France opposes the legislation, which of course was enacted by the current socialist government of France.
So, feminists and socialists favour this kind of legislation, while rightists oppose it.
I think, in the interests of fairness and justice, everyone ought to oppose such – because laws that are one-sided in their punishments are inherently unjust, regardless of the particular issue in question, frankly.