By Lin Taylor
LONDON, April 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - On average at least two people a day are arrested in France for buying sex under a new law which criminalises paying for sex and punishes clients rather than sex workers, an international charity said on Thursday.
Since the French law to reduce sex trafficking was enacted a year ago, 937 people have been arrested for buying sex, according to the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP), which consists of 18 global charities providing support to victims of sexual exploitation.
"Sex buyers are now recognised as people who sexually exploit women in vulnerable situations with their financial power," said CAP Chief Executive Gregoire Thery in a phone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The aim is to reduce the scale of prostitution, pimping and trafficking in France. To remove the repression of victims, and remove the impunity of the exploiters."
Thery said there are between 30,000 and 40,000 sex workers in France - nearly 90 percent of them are victims of human trafficking, mainly from Bulgaria, Romania, China and Nigeria.
Under the law, those who pay for sex face fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,596) for the first offence, and up to 3,750 euros ($3,990) for subsequent offences.
Thery said shifting the criminal charge from victim to the client was making France less attractive for pimps and traffickers.
He added that the crackdown could push the sex trade to neighbouring countries or increase the amount of sex sold over the internet instead, which was harder for authorities to monitor.
France follows Northern Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Iceland in introducing laws designed to punish the client without criminalising those forced into prostitution.
Many sex workers do not have the right to work in France. The law paved the way for those who want to leave prostitution to receive financial support, access to training and job opportunities, social housing, and residency permits for foreign victims of trafficking.
($1 = 0.9399 euros)
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)