France: Over 900 people arrested for buying sex in first year of new law

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On 13 April 2016, France introduced a law making it an offence to pay for sexual services.  One year on, leading charities report that 937 individuals have been arrested for the offence with most admitting their guilt and being fined.

CARE welcomes this strong indication that police and prosecutors in France are taking the new law seriously and using it effectively to address the demand for prostitution.

The law also created a statutory aggravation so that where crimes of physical or sexual violence are committed against a person in prostitution the offender can receive a stronger penalty.  This new provision emphasises that the French justice system has been re-oriented to help people in prostitution and bring to justice those who exploit them and has already been used in several cases.

As well as introducing the new offence, the French law also set up national plans to help people exit prostitution, strategies to reduce the harm to the physical and mental health of people involved in prostitution, new rights for victims of human trafficking and mandatory awareness courses for those who purchase sex.    Already the relevant Government departments have produced the necessary papers to implement these plans but more action is needed to establish these rights and programmes fully.

There may be more to be done, but France has clearly made good progress in this first year.   We look forward to continued and effective implementation as the other aspects of the law come into being.  We hope that the Republic of Ireland which has recently passed a comparable law will make similarly effective use of its legislation, and we urge police and prosecutors in Northern Ireland to do the same. 

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