Although there have been brothels in France since the middle of the 13th century (legalised during that period by royal decree), they were outlawed in 1946, along with active solicitation. Many former brothel owners soon opened "hôtels de passe" where prostitutes could continue working. Additionally, passive solicitation (streetwalking) was outlawed in 2003 as part of a package of law-and-order measures by then-interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
Ironically, now that Sarkozy is President, there is a proposal under his administration to re-open brothels. Chantal Brunel, a member of the ruling UMP, called on French authorities to study the possibility of legalising centres where prostitutes could work within a regulated and protected framework. She has stated it's time to move away from attempts to stamp out prostitution and instead focus on making the sex trade safer for prostitutes, and she has urged the government to look at other countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, in which licensed brothels are legal. "Prostitutes are finding themselves even more badly treated and damaged than before," she said. "We have to stop their exploitation." More than half of French people agree with this.
However, a month ago, many prostitutes gathered on the streets of Paris to protest this, stating it would deny them the freedom to work on their own. Instead, they are calling for the repeal of the 2003 law which bans streetwalking.
My opinion: While I do understand the concerns of my sisters in the life who oppose this due to the possibility they might be under the control of unscrupulous managers, I completely agree with the legalisation and re-opening of the French brothels; this would be a safe haven for prostitutes. And I also feel it's time to lift the current ban on streetwalking: we hookers should have the right to work when and where we choose.
Now if only adult prostitution in all its forms could be legal here throughout the U.S.