France’s Parliament passed a law Wednesday that makes it illegal to pay for sex. Offenders may be fined up to €3,750 (about $4,300) and required to attend classes about the conditions of sex workers.
The controversial law makes France the fifth European country to criminalize the clients of prostitutes, joining Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the U.K., according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Pimping is already penalized across the region.
The law also establishes measures to help prostitutes find new work, and makes it easier for foreign sex workers to acquire temporary residency permits.
France’s Socialist government welcomed the new legislation. The bill’s architect Maud Olivier told AFP: “This law is essential to ending the idea that it is normal to buy someone’s body.”
But some of France’s nearly 30,000 prostitutes did not share Olivier’s conviction. About 60 demonstrators, including sex workers, protested the new law outside the Parliament, some carrying a sign that read, “Don’t Liberate Me, I’ll Take Care of Myself!”