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France must bring back the brothel to protect its prostitutes from exploitation, trafficking and aggression in the street, an MP from Nicolas Sarkozy's rightwing party has said. Chantal Brunel, a member of the ruling UMP, called on French authorities to study the possibility of legalising centres where sex workers could serve clients within a regulated and protected framework.
It was time, she said, to move away from attempts to stamp out prostitution and instead focus on making the sex trade more safe and transparent. Women remain markedly more against the idea than men. In , Sarkozy, then interior minister, made passive solicitation a crime punishable by a jail term or hefty fine.
Brunel voted for the law at the time, but now says the crackdown failed. She is urging the government to look at other countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, in which licensed brothels are legal. Amid the shame of wartime "horizontal" Nazi collaboration and growing concern for women's rights, 1, maisons closes were shut in under what is known as the Marthe Richard law.
Richard, a prostitute turned politician, fought to have brothels outlawed out of a desire to kill off the sex trade for good. Accused by some activists of encouraging a return to the bad old days, Brunel, author of a new book entitled Putting an End to Violence against Women, insists she is not calling for the resurrection of brothels as they were once known, but envisages maisons ouvertes in which shelter and medical care would be provided.
She would like to see prostitutes working in groups "like in professional offices, like accountants". A boss figure or "landlord" to whom the workers would give part of their earnings would not be "essential", she added. She said she would be against the return of maisons closes , but would be in favour of reopening maisons ouvertes in which sex workers could gather without a boss or a pimp.