Paris, 10 December 2002
For the first time, feminists took to the street in considerable numbers to say NO to the system of prostitution, NO to repression of persons in prostitution, and YES to a world without prostitution. A 25% participation of men is a historical event. The system of prostitution concerns the whole of society, including those men who reject the clichés on the so-called “irrepressible male sexual need”. This demonstration, as was witnessed by the numerous journalists and photographers present, marks a turning point : small feminist groups had already demonstrated against “johns” (buyers), but never before, in Europe nor it would seem elsewhere in the world, had there been a demonstration of this scope. Dynamic and full of color, it was organized by a group centered around the national Collective for Women’s Rights, including feminist associations, associations working with persons in prostitution, political parties, Labor Unions, Human Rights League, Attac, etc.
Around three hundred persons marched behind the banner “HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT MERCHANDISE” and entered the pages of history on this 10th December, anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While one of these basic rights should be the right not to be in prostitution, in point of fact, it is all too often considered a man’s right to pay for access to the sex of other human beings.
This is what was condemned by signs and slogans such as: “A ‘necessary evil’ or an evil necessary for males?”, “Prostitution = Sexual freedom for whom?”, “Rape and Prostitution feed the Patriarchal System”, and again: “If it is work, suggest it for your children”, “If you get the itch, scratch yourself”, “Yes to pleasure without money”, “Yes to pleasure without violence”, etc.
This event took place in France, in the country that, in 1810, invented the regulationnist system (brothels organized by the State), in the country where the feminist Marcelle Legrand-Falco founded in 1926 the first Abolitionist association (that demanded the abolition of regulation of prostitution). The presence at this demonstration of her niece, Denise Pouillon-Falco, an 86 years old militant, ensured the link with those generations of feminists who, for more than a century in Western countries, proclaimed their rejection of the system of Macho oppression represented by prostitution.
Another historical figure present was Yvette Roudy, first French Minister of Women’s Rights in 1981. Among those personalities who came to the march were the socialists Anne Hidalgo and Christophe Caresche, Deputy Mayors of Paris, the Deputy Martine Lignières-Cassou, the Green members Martine Billard and Francine Bavay, as well as the Algerian lawyer Wassyla Tamzali, ex-director of the rights of women (Unesco).
At the corner of Saint Denis street, a place of prostitution, some ten women, wearing white masks, awaited the demonstrators and two militants of France-Prostitution distributed leaflets.
The march continued with no hindrance along the Boulevards. It ended with the reminder of our opposition to the law proposed by Minister Sarkozy, and the announcement of further demonstrations, in particular when this law will be discussed at the National Assembly. Taking note that a broad feminist and abolitionist network was being built up, the group dispersed shouting: “Long live free love with no payment!”