France has outlawed paying for sex as described in a recent article by BBC. Many places (apparently very few in Europe) have outlawed prostitution altogether, but only recently are Europeans criminalizing the person paying for the sex. This move is not accepted by all though, many of the sex workers themselves protested in the days leading up to the law being passed in France. They claim that it is negatively impacting their livelihood, which is true in a monetary sense at least. Other opponents of the new law suggest that it will drive prostitution underground, making it more dangerous for the sex workers.
Advocates for the law say it protects women. Many people, women in particular, have been trafficked and are functionally sex slaves. By making the payment for sex illegal it means that women who are being held against their will might be more easily discovered and rescued. The article points out that 85% of prostitutes in France are victims of human trafficking.
Prostitution fundamentally undermines a person’s humanity. The “john” uses the prostitute only as a means to an end and not as an end in and of herself. The prostitute likewise, uses the john only as a means to an end. The pimps use the prostitutes as means as well. Using people as merely a means to an end is to disregard and therefore disrespect their basic humanity. If we do not respect the humanity in others as well as the humanity in our own selves then we have no basis for behaving ethically.
This is especially true when the prostitute is forced against their will to participate. By infringing on another person’s free will you subvert their humanity. This law that was passed specifically seeks to help people who are not engaging in prostitution willingly. There may be some who do so willingly, but most are trafficked into that life. Whether willing or unwilling, prostitution, for all parties involved is clearly unethical and the French government was right to take steps to criminalize it.
Without an ethical system that values the humanity of others, the only thing keeping people “in line” is the fear of consequences. This means that if a person believes that they can get away with something, thereby avoiding the negative consequences, then they will do so. Society then once again devolves into a chaotic system of “might makes right”.