Nov 11, 2013
This article is from the November 8th, 2013 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
On November 27th, members of the French parliament are scheduled to debate a bill that aims to combat prostitution by punishing its clients. The bill has the endorsement of a large majority of feminist organizations and of the support networks for prostitutes.
Ninety percent of prostitutes on the street in France, almost exclusively women, are immigrants, and most are trapped in trafficking and pimping networks that use systematic violence to coerce them. These tens of thousands of young women are first sold or kidnapped, and then are forced to accept their fate through abuse or torture. After what are called “training courses” in the trafficking networks, they are sent out into the street, without legal papers and chained to the hope of freeing themselves by paying what their torturers present as their debt. These networks, which were first strengthened in Eastern Europe in the 1990’s, now serve to organize human trafficking in many countries.
In this way, many prostitutes are not only exposed to daily violence and sexually transmitted diseases, but also to dire poverty that saps their health. Tuberculosis, lung disease, skin disorders, dental problems, addictions, and psychological trauma are their daily fate. The insecurity that comes from not having a residence permit is a weapon in the hands of the pimps.
The French government could easily take away this weapon by regularizing their status. One major obstacle to the fight against prostitution is the lack of resources that the government devotes to it. The resources allocated to organizations devoted to helping prostitutes continue to diminish from one year to the next.
This is not the first time that a government has tried to fight prostitution, and this law might not be any more effective than previous laws. To consider the use of prostitutes a crime is a minimal step.
What allows prostitution to flourish is the generalized poverty and misery rampant throughout the world. This is what makes possible the existence of networks that traffic in human beings and the sexual slavery that is a result. Resting on poverty and violence, prostitution is one of the symptoms of a sick society that reduces women to the level of objects and turns sexual relations into a source of profit.