On the 6th December, the French Parliament will discuss a resolution re-affirming the abolitionist position of the country. If passed, this will lead to a new Bill for the criminalisation of our clients.
Criminalisation doesn’t stop us working but worsens our condition. It is an attack on our livelihood and increases the risks of violence and exploitation. It reinforces our victim status and the stigma.
This victim status is a tool to silence us and justify our incapacity. Sex workers never matter in the debate. We are treated like children who need protection or pathologised with false statistics about child abuse, rape and post traumatic syndromes.
We are said to be alienated in a false consciousness as long as we are “in prostitution”, and only once we are rehabilitated, we realise our past of self-harm. If we compared these theory and practices with the ex-gays movement that try to “cure” LGBT people, most would consider it to be homophobia, but for sex workers it is still normal.
Why do some politicians want to criminalise consenting sex between adults while they do nothing to stop rape? In France, sex workers struggle to make rapes recognised and reported when they are not raped by the police themselves.
When our clients are criminalised, we are forced to work in more remote areas where they are not afraid to be caught by the police. It is more difficult to impose our conditions when we have to get quicker on the car so the police don’t see us. We are more likely to work for third parties who can arrange the meeting with the clients instead of being independent.
We have less access to health and outreach services who can no longer find us. In Sweden the criminalisation of clients was justified as an excuse not to provide harm reduction services and HIV prevention. Condoms can’t be given to clients because it would be encouraging crime.
Criminalisation has no impact on the fight against human trafficking. On the contrary, it prevents those who could most often report situations of abuse. In some countries, there are specific phone lines for clients who are seen as allies instead of criminals. The criminalisation of men who respect us, respect our consent and our conditions, is a waste of police resources and of the taxpayer’s money.
There is a lot of evidence and testimonies that confirm the harm caused by the criminalisation of clients. Not only the Swedish sex worker organisation Rose Alliance, but independent researchers condemn the law.
Laura Agustin presented extensive criticism of the Swedish evaluation of their law. She showed how false figures and data were used, confusions made and the lack of methodology. In the same way, Petra Östergren and Suzanne Dodillet have destroyed the Swedish government’s claims that clients were deterred from buying sex or that human trafficking had decreased.
French sex workers oppose this law which we know will have actually more consequences on us than our clients. If the clients can have fines, sex workers face a decrease in incomes, greater danger, more exploitation, and increased stigma. We are the ones who are seen as hopeless victims by the society. We are the ones who risk losing the custody of our children for not realising our “self-harm” behaviour and its impact on our kids.
However, we will continue to pay taxes which show all the contradiction and hypocrisy of the system. At the occasion of the international day to end violence against sex workers, on the 17th December, we will demonstrate in Paris streets to oppose any potential law to criminalise our clients.