An ex-prostitute has walked 500 miles across France in protest against the shelving of a bill designed to criminalise paying for sex. Rosen Hicher, who worked as a prostitute for 22 years before quitting in 2009 told journalists assembled at the end of her route in Paris that prostitution “is not a right, no one has the right to buy a woman or sell her,” and called on lawmakers “to wake up and finally act”.
Hicher was surrounded by twelve other ex-prostitutes who supported her stance as she made a symbolic stop in Rue du Colisee, the upmarket street on which she first prostituted herself. It was there that she spoke to reporters before moving on to the Senate The Local has reported. The French Minister for Women’s rights, Pascale Boistard, also joined Hicher on the last section of her walk. “The Senate must re-visit this law. A large majority of the French are in favour,” Boistard said.
Last December the National Assembly, France’s lower house adopted legislation that would fine clients paying for sex up to €1,500 (€1,900). It was modelled on a similar Swedish law, which aims to phase out prostitution by making it socially unacceptable to solicit their services. However, a Senate committee binned the proposal, agreeing with critics that the move would drive prostitution underground and make the profession even more risky than it currently is. The bill was also opposed by many prostitutes themselves.
Currently, either paying for or accepting payment for sex is not illegal in France, although soliciting, pimping (including running brothels) and sex with minors is. The new bill planned to decriminalise soliciting and criminalise paying for sex, shifting policing efforts onto the clients rather than the prostitutes themselves. The government said that the aim was to prevent violence, and protect the majority of prostitutes who are held by trafficking gangs.
A 2002 survey of French attitudes towards prostitution carried out by CSA found that the majority of French people were in favour of legalised prostitution. Only 37 percent wanted clients criminalised, and just 22 percent wanted to see the prostitutes criminalised. One in three wanted all prostitution to be illegal; by 2006, this number had more than halved to 14 percent. Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has in the past claimed that prostitution is part of France’s cultural heritage.
Hicher said that many people came to support her on her route, which began in the western city of Saintes, including men who had used the services of prostitutes in the past. She said that they acknowledged that their actions in doing so represented “a sexual failure, a failure in their lives”.