Apr 13, 2015
This article is from the April 3th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
At the end of March, the French Senate voted, 165 to 44, to reestablish soliciting as a crime, a measure introduced in 2003 under the former prime minister Sarkozy. This law turns prostitutes into criminals. With this vote, the right-wing parties bury a law passed in December of 2013, by which the deputies of the Socialist Party tried to fight against prostitution.
Certainly this oppression of women is not going to be eliminated by a simple law. But the 2013 law at least admitted, for the first time under French law, that prostitution is violence carried out against the prostitutes. That 2013 law proposed to penalize the clients, to end calling solicitation a crime, to attack the networks of sex traffickers, and to help the prostitutes leave their terrible conditions by offering them residency papers if they have none and creating a contingency fund to help former prostitutes.
In July 2014, the Senate, dominated by the right, rejected the law penalizing the clients of prostitutes. With this vote, the senators stand as the safeguards of bourgeois morality that believes men, the vast majority of clients, have the right to pay to get submissive sex from women, all the while refusing to see that the women are victims.
Some people argue that we are free to do what we want with our own bodies, and therefore to prostitute yourself is only your own choice. But they ignore that prostitution also involves the choice of the client to do what he wants with the body of another person. Some defend prostitution in the name of sexual freedom. In this society where everything is bought and sold, the freedom offered is for commerce and for money. This is the morality of these guys, a morality that allowed the “honorable” gentlemen of the senate to refuse to hear any eyewitness accounts by the victims, that is, by the women themselves.
As one of the woman witnesses put it, “I was disgusted by the reactions I saw in the debates today. Why so much complacency and so many fantasies when the reality is so cruel, so violent? I knew prostitution as a series of rapes. I wonder how these men could trample over me without questioning themselves. Not one of them was uneasy about my distress. If they pay, it’s for this: to be able to buy the right to care only for themselves. I was a minor, I had gone to pieces and not one of them, ever showed the slightest interest in me. I was a whore, therefore I was there for that.”
Prostitution has existed for centuries – not because it’s the “oldest profession in the world,” but because it’s tied to the existence of societies of exploitation. It flows from the oppression of women who are considered mainly as objects of reproduction and as ways to appease sexual desire.
People who today promote the “freedom” of a woman to prostitute herself deny the reality of this barbarity: prostitution is primarily provided by networks of traffickers in women. More than 80% of prostitutes in France are foreigners, sold, beaten, drugged, and raped repeatedly before being pushed into the ordeal of prostitution. They find themselves captive of their slave-masters, undergoing the worst physical and psychological difficulties in order to escape.
Not only does the government not help them, refusing them papers for legal residency and work permits, but the laws make them the ones to bear the blame.
These senators who voted to criminalize the prostitutes but not their clients show they have the morality of the traders in slaves.