French Act on Prostitution and Human Trafficking Turns One!

CATW International April 7, 2017

Photo Credit: Cyril Plapied via Flickr

When the French Act Against Prostitution passed in April 2016, France set up a national legal blueprint that:

- Decriminalizes prostituted people;
- Reinforces the State’s protection of victims of pimping and trafficking;
- Offers access to residency permits for foreign victims of trafficking;
- Sets up a national exit policy and develops new victims’ rights;
- Recognizes the purchase of sex as a form of violence and criminalizes such action;
- Establishes national standards for harm reduction, prevention and education, as well as for the training of professionals directly dealing with victims.

Almost immediately, France ended the arrests of prostituted people for solicitation. From 2016 to 2017, the number of prostituted people criminalized for their own exploitation has dropped from a yearly average of 1,500 arrests to zero. It also immediately implemented its national policy to end the demand for prostitution. Within one year, 937 sex buyers were arrested and fined. The justice system also began to recognize physical and sexual violence against a prostituted person as an aggravating circumstance. The charge has been used at trials through the year. 

However, the work is still not finished. Full implementation of vitally needed support services requires the publication of one final ministerial decree. Four decrees have already been published calling for the implementation of the national exit policy; harm reduction in terms of mental and physical health; accessibility for foreign victims to attain residency permits to receive these benefits; and mandatory awareness courses for sex buyers. Our colleagues at CAP International are working hard to ensure that the French government fulfills its commitment to the rights of victims of prostitution and trafficking by ensuring that comprehensive social services are implemented appropriately and effectively. 

Bravo, France!