A new law in France has made it illegal to buy sex.
Anyone caught paying for an act from a sex worker will be fined €1,500 for a first offence and €3,750 for a repeated offence.
Additionally, the offender will have a criminal record and be obliged to attend classes on the harms of prostitution.
The legislation, described as a major social reform, overturns a 2003 law which made it illegal for prostitutes to solicit for sex.
The new law will effectively make the client the criminal for buying sex rather than the sex worker for selling it, with the worker viewed as the victim rather than the criminal.
France now joins just a handful of European nations which have followed the Nordic model of criminalising the buyer rather than the seller of sex. Many women’s rights groups have supported such initiatives, but sex workers have concerns that it will make them more vulnerable by having to work in more secluded areas.
Some claim it has helped halve prostitution in Sweden, but critics say it has simply pushed it out of sight of authorities, which is also the fear among sex workers unions in France.
After more than two years of argument, the law was finally passed by 64 votes to 12 although many parliamentarians were absent for the vote.
The Socialist MP Maud Olivier, who championed the bill, said the aim was to “reduce [prostitution], protect prostitutes who want to leave it and to change mentalities”.
She also said it was “fundamental to reverse this balance of power”.
Receiving money for sex is not a crime in France. But activities around it are. Laws prohibit pimping, human trafficking and buying sex from a minor. Brothels were outlawed in 1946, but remain legal in some countries such as Germany, Belgium and Spain.
There are an estimated 40,000 sex workers in France, with some 80% believed to be foreign, many the victims of trafficking.