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Apr 24 15 3:12 PM

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SURVEY ON THE CRIMINALISATION OF CLIENTS IN FRANCE – 25 MARCH 2015

98% OF SEX WORKERS ARE AGAINST THE CRIMINALISATION OF CLIENTS


Executive Summary of Survey Findings


The Project The survey on the criminalisation of clients is part of the project

Emborders : problematising sexual humanitarianism through experimental filmmaking.


The project compares the impact of humanitarian interventions targeting migrant sex workers and sexual minority asylum seekers in the UK (London) 

 and France (Marseille/Paris). Its methodological approach combines participant observation, the undertaking of 100 semi-structured qualitative interviews 

 and the production of two experimental ethnographic films (ethnofictions). Between March 2014 and March 2015 the qualitative approach of the project 

 was completed with a survey of 500 women, men and transgender people working in the sex industry in order to find out what they thought about the 

 criminalisation of the purchase of sex in France. Methodology In all of the street and offline contexts of the research the questionnaire was delivered 

 individually and attention was paid to make sure that the participant was able to respond freely. Questions have been asked in a neutral and not leading 

 way in order to secure the objectivity and reliability of the survey results. Extra care was taken to avoid the results being influenced by the presence of 

 onlookers and particularly of gatekeepers, managers, pimps and people belonging to criminal networks having a vested interest regarding the outcome 

 of the questionnaire. Participants were explicitly asked to provide false names and no pressure was exerted to fill the questionnaires. Respondents 

 participated spontaneously as they felt that the criminalisation of clients was putting their lives and jobs in danger. The survey was conducted with 

 500 sex workers between March 2014 and March 2015. Respondents include a majority of women, as well as men and trans working in the main 

 jobs available in the French sex industry. Trans workers include a majority identifying as women as well as a minority of trans men. 78 % of 

 respondents are street workers, the remaining are off-street sex workers and escorts, including domination services. 39% of respondents are French, 

 the remaining being migrants living and working in France from the most relevant countries of origin including Algeria, Brazil, Cameroon, China, 

 Colombia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, and Romania, these being the 10 largest migrant groups encountered. Respondents were recruited 

 both through social support projects and directly through their work contacts (phone, websites, street, etc.) in a deliberate effort to avoid the 

 usual over-representation of subjects seeking help and thus contribute to the widespread perception of sex workers as exclusively victimised. 

 The project adopted a participative ethical approach, characterised by the inclusion of people working in the sex industry or for organisations 

 representing and supporting sex workers in the formulation of the research questions, as well as in the gathering and analysis of the interview material. 

 Supporting organisations include: Acceptess – T (Paris), Bus des Femmes (Paris), Lotusbus (Paris), Cabiria (Lyon), and Griselidis (Toulouse), 

 as well as the STRASS (Paris and internet surveys). The questionnaire was translated into English, Spanish, Chinese, Romanian and Bulgarian. 

 The combined linguistic skills of the Principal Investigator (PI), of the postdoctoral researcher and of the project based researchers and volunteers

 that were involved in the gathering of the questionnaire meant that we were able to offer migrant workers the possibility of being interviewed in 

 a variety of languages, including: Albanian, French, English, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. 

 Main findings

98 % of all respondents are against the criminalisation of clients, which they see as increasing their vulnerability to violence and poverty by pushing the

 industry underground and discouraging safer clients.


The small minority of respondents who were in favour of the criminalisation of clients were planning to leave the sex industry soon, which further 

 corroborates the finding that people working in the sex industry are overwhelmingly against it. Many respondents, both migrants and non-migrants, 

 felt that the effects of the criminalisation of clients had partially been anticipated as prices had decreased and safer clients stopped calling for fear

 of being fined. 

 These are the words of a 27 French escort based in Paris:


The threat of criminalisation in the near future has already scared away some of my clients: the most respectful ones.


And these are the words of a 40 years old Algerian transvestite selling sex on the streets of Marseille:


It is already happened. Every time there they talk about the law on TV clients go down, and then they come up again, slowly. I now do for 20 

 what I would not have even considered doing for 40 just a year ago. I get on cars I would not have gotten into. There are no clients. 

 So you have to get what you can.


Relationship to trafficking and consent

The questionnaire included four questions addressing the extent of trafficking in the French sex industry. A first question asked respondents 

 whether they though they had decided to work in the sex industry for themselves. A second question asked respondents whether they had

 subsequently decided to work in the sex industry, if they had not decided initially, in order to measure the possibility of voluntary implication

 after the first experiences of coercion. A third question asked respondents if they were aware that they were going to sell sex in France 

 before leaving their country of origin. Finally a fourth question asked respondents if they sold sex to repay their debts with those who 

 had helped them migrate. These four questions have been formulated in order to understand if the experiences of migration and sex work of 

 survey participants corresponded to the definitions of trafficking provided by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings


‘Trafficking in human beings’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or 

 other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments 

 or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, 

 the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude 

 or the removal of organs.


In order to identify respondents whose experiences of migration and sex work match this definition we decided to adopt an inclusive approach. We 

 considered as potential victims of trafficking all those who indicated that they did not decide to work in the sex industry, those who did not know 

 that they were going to sell sex before coming to France and all those who indicated that they were selling sex in order to repay debts with people 

 who had helped them migrate. According to these questions and criteria 33 migrant respondents can be considered as potential victims of 

 trafficking, corresponding to approximately 7% of the total sample, 11% of all migrant respondents and 15% of all migrant female respondents. 

 These are 6 women from Ghana, 25 women from Nigeria and 2 women from Sierra Leone. A large minority (38%) of the Nigerian women we 

 contacted did not decide to work in the sex industry. They indicated that economic problems and the lack of legal status (papers) were the 

 two constraints under which they felt had no choice but to sell sex. That fact that these were the same factors that made all the remaining 

 62% of women decide to sell sex highlights the relevance of the economic dimension in the vulnerability of Nigerian women to trafficking. 

 All of them felt under pressure from the necessity to help their families and were hoping to obtain the legal documentation allowing them to 

 work outside the sex industry. All Nigerian women, and particularly those who felt that they did not decide to work in the sex industry, were 

 strongly against the criminalisation of clients, which they felt would have made it even more difficult to meet their economic needs. These 

 shared concerns are best expressed in the words of Joy, a 20 years old Nigerian woman working in Paris:

No, I did not decide, what was I going to do? My family is suffering in Nigeria and I have no papers, what else can I do? They should give us 

 papers instead of fining clients! It is only going to make things more difficult for us than they are already. They should give us work if they 

 want us to stop doing this!

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Last Edited By: UncleLewis Apr 24 15 3:23 PM. Edited 3 times