A repressive French law passed in 2016 that shifted the criminal responsibility for prostitution from the sellers to the buyers has come under a challenge in court by a group of French sex workers, backed by a consortium of non-profits and
activist groups. The law was supposedly intended to help sex workers but the law has made work as a prostitute more dangerous. The sex workers also say the law violates their sexual and commercial freedoms. The group of about 30 prostitutes and
activists took their cause to France's Constitutional Council last week.
France made the customers of prostitutes the criminals. Buying sex now carries a fine of about $1,700 for a first offense and up to $4,200 for repeats. Prostitution consumers who get caught under the law must also attend a workshop to be
'educated' on the conditions of life for a sex worker.
But sex workers in France say that rather than protecting their safety, the law has driven their business farther into the shadows, and as a result, put them in a higher degree of physical danger. They blame the law for the murder last August of
Vanessa Campos, a 36-year-old Peruvian transgender sex worker who was killed in a dark, wooded area of the Bois de Boulogn by criminals attempting to rob her client.
Girls are now forced to hide and promise their clients that the police won't find them, sex worker-turned-activist Giovanna Rincon told The Times.
The constitutional court is expected to hand down a decision on whether the law is compatible with the French Constitution on February 1.
Update: French court rules that endangering sex workers is constitutional
The French Press Agency reported on Friday that the Constitutional Council failed to be persuaded by the group of 30 sex workers and nine rights organizations, not only upholding the law but also claiming that it actually increased safety for
prostitutes by depriving pimps of their profits.
The Council ruled that the law fights against this activity and against the sexual exploitation of human beings, criminal activities founded on coercion and enslavement.
Under the law, a client of prostitutes can be fined up to $1,700 for a first offense, with penalties hitting $4,200 for repeat patrons. French authorities are serious about enforcing the law, making about 2,800 arrests since the legislation
passed about two-and-a-half years ago, according to a New York Times report.