Recently, France has passed a law banning people from paying for sex, with clients facing fines of €3,750 if they flout the law. Apparently, prostitution is not a crime in France, but paying for it is, which basically means that the French government isn’t criminalizing sex workers, but rather banning people from paying them for their services. If you think that sounds stupid then guess what? It is. Seriously, how do you ban people from paying for sex work without criminalizing prostitution as a whole? How does that work? It doesn’t. If your government wants to ban people from paying for sex, you might as well just criminalize prostitution altogether because the whole point of prostitution is that one person pays another for sexual services. It’s fairly obvious that laws like this exist only to work against the sex industry. The people passing these laws seem to not want to punish sex workers directly so they want to punish the clients instead – but such a thing by itself is a punishment of sex workers because it directly harms their industry as a whole. If you want to protect sex workers, just decriminalize prostitution as a whole and allow sex workers to operate in a regulated industry. The pimps and traffickers can’t exploit sex workers if they operate in an environment where their rights are protected by the law. But of course, that’s common sense, and governments don’t often consistently operate under common sense.
To be honest, though, I actually don’t feel too surprised with this law being passed in France. The French government has made notable moves towards authoritarianism before, despite their president Francois Hollande’s claims that their country values freedom (specifically freedom of speech). In 2011, France banned Muslims from performing street prayers in the absence of adequate mosques, apparently to appease the French far-right’s concerns that the street prayers are a sign of “invasion”. In 2010, the French government passed a law banning the wearing of the burqa, the traditional veil often worn by women in Islamic culture. Four years later, the ban was inexplicably upheld in the European court of human rights. The law was passed on the pretense of preserving the freedom of women, presumably under the delusion that women only wore the burqa under coercion, but anyone who knows anything about freedom and liberty can inform you that it is totally possible to wear a burqa by choice and that banning the burqa does nothing to protect the civil liberties of women. Just last year, in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists, the French authorities arrested the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala over apparent anti-Semitic remarks and for supposedly inciting racial hatred and sympathizing with one of the attackers, and he was also given a jail sentence in Belgium on similar charges. He’s been sentenced seven years imprisonment for the specific charge of his social media comments that supposedly sympathize with terrorism. The French authorities also opened up several other cases of people “condoning terrorism” or mocking murdered policemen, and similar instances of what some might describe as “hate speech”. And later last year, in the wake of the Paris attacks in November, France decided to extend a state of emergency and pass a bill whose provisions are very much characteristic of a country panicking about terrorism. Around the same time, the French government closed 3 mosques that were supposedly linked with radicalization, and suggested that about 100 more mosques would follow under the pretense of preventing radical ideology and hate speech. Oh, and the government has also raised plans to police online “hatred” – twice – which at this point you know is not going anywhere good..
It should also be noted that, again, despite Hollande’s claims that France is committed to freedom of speech, France is not completely liberal. So-called hate speech is illegal in the country, and specifically speech that characterizes a group as a mortal danger is illegal. Which of course, is stupid. You’re not coercing individuals, truth be known you aren’t violating any of their rights. Only the mythical right to not be offended or insulted. France also has laws prohibiting Holocaust denial, as well as libel laws and online surveillance curtailing freedom of speech online, and it actually endorses the concept of a “public speech offense” with regards to the arts. And as you surely know, when you legally divide speech into acceptable and unacceptable speech, you do not have freedom of speech. And no, there’s no such thing as “partial” freedom of speech either. Because of this, it’s clear that France is not the liberal example of democracy the media sometimes has you believe it is (at least during coverage of the attacks in France), but in fact an illiberal democracy, or rather an authoritarian state – after all, any country that decides what you can and can’t say is in fact authoritarian because it does not recognize freedom of speech.
So in my opinion, France is slowly but surely embracing full-on authoritarianism. The only peculiarity seems to be that it frequently seems to center around women, Muslims, and Jews, and a noticeable paranoia concerning terrorism.