A single problem with a single answer: The institutional sources of framing in contemporary French prostitution policy debates (2002-2012)
Author: Emily St. Denny, University of Sterling (UK)
Presented at the International Conference on Public Policy (June 26-28, 2013)
Despite the primacy of the abolitionist policy regime, adopted in 1960 and which is centred on concerns about the well-being of “victims” of prostitution, contemporary French prostitution policy has sustained a variety of inconsistent policies. Alone, these reforms have not threatened the established abolitionist regime. Together, though, they amount to a cumulative transformation of what French abolitionism stands for. This challenges traditional conceptions of significant institutional and paradigmatic change as predicated on critical junctures. This paper therefore argues that understanding the manner in which policy actors, seeking to further their preferred policy options, garner legitimacy and support for their project within established institutional frameworks requires analysing the interplay between the constraining effect of institutions and the creative and constituting effect of strategic framing. Presenting evidence from the preliminary process tracing of recent two policy reform projects, this paper consequently suggests that framing prostitution policy proposals as compliant with the dominant ideational framework is necessary but insufficient to guarantee reform success. Drawing on ideational and institutional policy theory, the paper concludes that, by virtue of the continuously (re)constructed and negotiated nature of dominant ideational frameworks, the abolitionist paradigm is rendered capable of housing an inconsistent variety of policies through the strategic framing of policy options.