A case to be heard in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg this week could have disastrous consequences for those campaigning to eradicate prostitution.
The hearing is the first step in determining whether France’s laws on prostitution – which criminalise paying for sex – are constitutional, or whether they contravene the human rights of self-titled “sex workers”.
The claimants – 250 individuals involved in prostitution, supported by 19 French NGOs – are now taking the case to the ECHR.
The fact that the applicants are using human rights legislation to argue for the “right” of men to pay for sex is staggering. Prostitution is a human rights violation of the women involved, and men have no right to pay for sex. In this case, the so-called “human right” of women to sell sex is being used as a smokescreen to protect the men and their right to sexual access to the most vulnerable women.
There is no evidence for these claims – on the contrary, research in those countries that have adopted the abolitionist model has shown that rates of violence and homicide perpetrated on women by pimps and punters is far lower than in decriminalised regimes.
The implications are huge – if the plaintiffs win, all the other countries with a similar law will doubtless be challenged by pro-prostitution lobbyists. If, however, they lose, this will further entrench the legality and highlight the successes of the abolitionist model. A lot is hanging on this case in terms of the direction that other countries take when dealing with its own sex trade.
Let’s hope that the judges see sense and understand that a repeal of the abolitionist model will lead to more misery for women, and amnesty on sexual exploiters.