‘The Problem of Prostitution’: Repressive policies in the name of migration control, public order, and women’s rights in France


  • Charlène Calderaro
  • Calogero Giametta




sex work, migration, Swedish model, France, women’s rights, public order


This article focuses on the political debates that led to the adoption of the sex purchase ban (commonly referred to as the Swedish or Nordic model) in France in April 2016. It examines the convergence of French mainstream feminists and traditional neo-abolitionist actors in the fight against prostitution, and its impact on sex workers’ rights and wellbeing. We argue that there is continuity between the effects produced by the ban on soliciting enacted in 2003 and those created by the law penalising clients passed in 2016. In discussing the current repression of sex work in France, we highlight how the construction of the ‘problem of prostitution’ should be seen in light of broader political anxieties over sexism in poor neighbourhoods and immigration control, which justify the national priorities of security and public order.


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Author Biographies

Charlène Calderaro

Charlène Calderaro is a PhD student at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her current work focuses on feminist social movements and conflicts. In her master dissertation, which she completed at the EHESS (Paris), she examined the construction of the problem of prostitution and the drafting process of the neo-abolitionist law. She has also worked on the law banning the headscarf in schools in France, thus highlighting the alliances between French public institutions and some feminist groups. Email: charlene.calderaro@unil.ch.

Calogero Giametta

Calogero Giametta is a sociologist at Aix-Marseille University. His current research focuses on gender, sexuality, and the political economy of migration, examining how migration control operates through (sexual) humanitarian interventions in France and the UK. He studies anti-human trafficking interventions and the right of asylum. He is the postdoctoral fellow within the ERC-funded research project ‘Sexual Humanitarianism: Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking’ (2016-2020) for France, and author of the book The Sexual Politics of Asylum (Routledge, 2017). Email: calogiame@gmail.com




How to Cite

Calderaro, C., & Giametta, C. (2019). ‘The Problem of Prostitution’: Repressive policies in the name of migration control, public order, and women’s rights in France. Anti-Trafficking Review, (12), 155–171. https://doi.org/10.14197/atr.2012191210