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Sex workers hold placards reading "Stop the decrees. Not our customers" during a demonstration in Paris. Photo: AFP. French sex workers have lodged a constitutional challenge to a law making it illegal to pay for sex, reopening a debate on whether people should be free to sell their bodies. On Tuesday, around 30 sex workers backed by nine associations, including a medical NGO, went to the Constitutional Council to argue the law infringed their sexual and commercial freedom and made them more vulnerable to attack.
Inspired by Sweden, it makes it a crime to buy sex but not to sell it, shifting the criminal responsibility to clients.
Hailed by many feminist groups at the time as an advance for women's rights, the law was assailed by sex workers as an infringement of "constitutional rights to personal autonomy and sexual freedom, respect of privacy, freedom of contract and freedom to do business. The sex workers also argued that by criminalising their clients the law has eroded their earnings, forcing them to take ever greater risks to earn a living. These include agreeing to engage in unprotected sex or to have sex in isolated environments where they are more vulnerable to attack.