French minister for women 'lets down' voters by focusing on that silly little prostitution issue

Ugh. The Guardian and Jezebel both published manipulative stories within the past 24 hours about how the French minister for women supposedly ‘let down’ Muslim voters by focusing on ending prostitution. Because, you know, violence against women is such a marginal issue.

Both sites use this quote: “Criminalised clients means murdered prostitutes” as a way to manipulate readers into believing that criminalizing exploitative men is somehow detrimental to women. A more accurate way to represent the fact that prostituted women are subjected to violence on a daily basis would be to say that, in fact, it is pimps and johns (oh but ‘clients’ just sounds so much tidier, doesn’t it?) that murder (and abuse and beat and rape and exploit prostitutes). BUT WHY BOTHER WITH ALL THAT.

France has taken an abolitionist perspective with regard to prostitution and is therefore looking at adopting legislation similar to other progressive countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Iceland wherein johns are criminalized and prostituted women are decriminalized (sometimes referred to as the Nordic or Swedish model). And horror of horrors!  The minister for women, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, is actually following through on that. What’s that? A minister for women who cares about women’s rights? I know, so crazy, right?

The Guardian calls her ‘naive’ and Jezebel frames the whole thing as a silly waste of time, writing that Vallaud-Belkacem should be focusing on more ‘meaningful reforms’. I don’t know what they think a minister for women should be focusing on instead of equality and women’s rights or why it’s necessary to pit the work to end prostitution and violence against women against lifting the burqa ban – it seems unnecessary, but anything to pit women and women’s issues against one another, I suppose. That’s the best way to keep women down. That and telling them that prostitution empowers them…

Framing the minister’s goal to end prostitution as being marginal, and as a goal that exists, somehow, in competition with lifting the burqa ban, and as something no one really cares about is extremely irresponsible and inaccurate.

If you care about women, you care about ending violence against women. Period. If you care about equality and about women’s human rights, then you care about creating a world where women are not exploited on a a daily basis.

I’d like to be able to expect more than this kind of anti-feminist, anti-woman coverage from The Guardian and from Jezebel.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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