Over 60 years after Paris shut its famed maisons closes, or brothels, an MP from President Sarkozy's UMP party wants to legalise them again.
Chantal Brunel, who was appointed last month to head the national watchdog on sexual equality, argues that crime would be cut and sex workers would benefit from “sexual services centres” similar to those run by France's neighbours.
A national poll by the CSA agency found that 59% of the French public approved the reopening of regulated brothels that were a fixture of French life and culture until they were abolished in 1946.
The proposal was supported by 70% of men and 49% of women. Only 13% of women were opposed, with 38% undecided, according to the poll for Le Parisien newspaper.
“The idea is not to go back to the situation before 1946. I propose that we should consider the creation of places where the purchase of sexual services would be possible with medical, legal and financial protection,” Ms Brunel said. Her campaign is outlined in a book to be published this month and comes after controversial results from a previous attempt to curb prostitution.
A tough law introduced by Mr Sarkozy in 2002, when he was Interior Minister, created an offence of “passive soliciting”, allowing police to charge any woman deemed by her appearance to be seeking custom in public, even if she makes no approach to potential clients.
The “Sarkozy law” has resulted in the removal of prostitutes — 80% of them foreigners — from the boulevards of Paris and other towns, driving them to more dangerous back streets.