Gertrud Åström är ordförande i Sveriges Kvinnolobby

Open letter to the government of France

2013-09-25 | Gertrud Åström padlock


The Swedish Women's Lobby welcomes policy developments taking place in France on the issue of prostitution. In an open letter the organisation expresses support for a system criminalises both sex buyers and procurers and at the same time abolishes repressive measures against prostituted persons.


His Excellency Mr Françoise Hollande, President of the Republic of France

His Excellency Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister

Her Excellency Ms Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice

His Excellency Mr Manuel Valls, Minister of Interior

Her Excellency Ms Najat Vallaud Belkacem, Minister for Women's Rights

His Excellency Mr Alain Vidalies, Minister delegated to the relations with the parliament

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2013-09-25 Franskt lagförslag kriminaliserar sexköp

Stockholm, 20 September 2013

Re: France's policy developments on prostitution

Your Excellences,

My organisation, Swedish Women’s Lobby, would like to let you know how instrumental the recent policy developments taking place in France on the issue of prostitution are. The position taken by your government, which qualifies prostitution as a form of violence against women and an obstacle to gender equality, reflects a strong political will to put an end to this pervasive violation of women's rights and dignity. We cannot but welcome and applaud this policy approach.

We know that the French Parliament has been working on a new law proposal which would address all aspects of the system of prostitution, including the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. As a women’s rights organisation, struggling for a society free from violence against women, we would like to stress on the crucial need to address the demand for prostitution, which fuels trafficking and perpetuates detrimental inequality between women and men. We sincerely hope that France is going to show the way to progressive policies on gender equality by discussing a comprehensive strategy embracing all aspects of an abolitionist policy, like the Swedish or Norwegian models.

We share with you the conviction that abolishing the system of prostitution is the best way to address the structural inequalities between women and men and at the same time effectively tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation. Such abolition can only be effective if perpetrators, like for any form of violence, are made accountable, and sex buyers and pimps are considered as such.

We also trust that the French government will abolish repressive measures against prostituted persons and develop concrete alternatives for the persons who want to quit the system of prostitution. Awareness raising and education activities and campaigns are also key to make social change.

Prostitution is blatantly a gendered phenomenon. This has been clearly acknowledged in the Resolution of the French Parliament of 6 December 2011, which we would like to pay tribute to, as it demonstrates that prostitution is in contradiction with the principle of equality between women and men. Systems of prostitution in Europe are directly challenging policy developments aiming at breaking gender stereotypes and realising equality between women and men.

In two of its recent resolution, the European Parliament lists prostitution amongst the many forms of violence against women and girls in Europe. Recent studies, including in France, highlight the detrimental impact of the trivialisation of prostitution on the representations of young people on sexuality and equality. Other research on sex buyers show that men buying sex have a degrading image of women.

We agree with UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Ms Sigma Huda that “prostitution (..) is rarely one marked by empowerment or adequate options”. France is amongst the 18 EU Member States which have ratified the UN 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others states: “Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person”.

Already in 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, pointed out to the direct impact of the policies on prostitution on the scale of trafficking in human beings. Ms Sigma Huda alerted that: “As current conditions throughout the world attest, States parties that maintain legalized prostitution are far from satisfying this obligation” to “ensure that their legalized prostitution regimes are not simply perpetuating widespread and systematic trafficking”.

A comparative look at the official reports of the Netherlands and Sweden, analysing the impact of their respective policy approaches to prostitution on trafficking, supports the same assessment. This is why we strongly welcome France's decision to tackle the system of prostitution and hope that you will implement and/or strengthen legislatives measures criminalising both sex buyers and procurers, who are both fuelling and benefiting from the exploitation of others.

Our organisation has signed the Brussels’ Call, which has been endorsed by 200 NGO:s from all over Europe. We believe that the issue of prostitution can be tackled at the European level and hope that France will play a leading role, together with Sweden, in this direction. An abolitionist law on prostitution in France would send a strong signal to other EU Member States towards achieving real equality between women and men.

We would like to express our support to your work on this issue, and remain at your disposal to share any information.


Gertrud Åström,

President Swedish Women’s Lobby


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