France May Criminalize Dressing “Sexy”

Under newly proposed legislation, France could soon make it illegal to dress provocatively in public, The Daily Dot reports. The law in question aims to crack down on prostitution by banning so-called "passive solicitation" — which could include behaviors such as being in a neighborhood known for prostitution while wearing skimpy clothes. Prostitution is technically legal in France, but solicitation and brothels have long been banned. Passive solicitation laws were first introduced in 2003 by the Interior Minister (and later President) Nicolas Sarkozy, and were seen by many as regressive because they targeted sex workers not clients. An earlier version of the law currently up for vote flipped that dynamic, with proposed fines for those who pay for sex. But the French Senate, which is mostly conservative and mostly male, rejected that and instead voted in favor of penalties for those found guilty of selling sex, Newsweek reports, including fines up to 3,750 euros (or just over $4,000), and two months in prison. Under the current proposed law, paying for sex would still be legal.
Many have come out to oppose the legislation, pointing out that it unfairly targets sex workers but not clients, that it may be used as an excuse to deport non-French nationals, and that it opens women up to police harassment. French feminist group les efFRONTé-e-s also points out that the clothing choices of all women, not just sex workers, would be under scrutiny under the new law: "Prostitution is a phenomenon that affects all women," a group spokesperson told The Daily Dot via email. "We are all worried, insulted, harassed when we wear skirts, with the famous insult 'slut.'" The law would still need to pass France's National Assembly before it's enacted, but French sex workers and advocates took to the streets this weekend in protest. One of the main tenets of feminism is that women deserve respect no matter what we look or dress like — so giving police the latitude to punish women for "looking" like a prostitute is a scary idea indeed.

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