The Debate on Prostitution in France: A Conflict Between Abolitionism, Regulation and Prohibition

Mathieu, Lilian(2004) ‘The Debate on Prostitution in France: A Conflict between Abolitionism,
Regulation and Prohibition’, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 12: 2, 153 — 163.
A heated debate on the issue of prostitution took place during the summer of 2002. Intellectuals, politicians, feminist activists, associations supporting prostitutes, and associations against prostitution opposed their conflicting ideas about prostitution and the measures that should be introduced in order to manage it or, on the contrary, to abolish it. Although it was provoked by the measures against soliciting announced in June 2002 by the new Minister for the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, this debate did not come out of the blue. It brought into conflict views that were already established and fuelled oppositions between groups that, in the past, had already voiced their disagreement. The aim of this article is to present the debate, focusing on the following aspects: the law on prostitution in France; disagreements between associations on the services that should be available to prostitutes; the intellectual debate between advocates of ‘prostitution-as-a-job’ and those who condemn ‘prostitution-as-slavery’; and, finally, the new policies recently adopted in other European countries, and the changes in prostitution itself, characterised by a severe deterioration in prostitutes’ living conditions and by the appearance of international prostitution rings.
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