Issue Feature


Not Wanted on the Rue Saint-Denis

It’s a February evening and a meeting is being held at the town hall of the 2nd arrondissement in Paris. A resident stands to speak. “We thought gentrification was under way,” she says, “and that it would eliminate prostitution. Can we expect to see an end to prostitution in this neighbourhood?” The debate was launched.

Many residents have come to complain of the “rampant prostitution” taking place on the streets, and sometimes even in old building staircases in this downtown Parisian neighbourhood. Local elected officials and police commissioners promise that the situation will improve while underlining the historical nature of this problem. “There has always been prostitution in this area,” explains the mayor. “Now it is declining. The situation is changing for the better.” Meanwhile, an association that helps sex workers points out that the majority of these women—victims of “modern-day slavery”—are in need of protection. The dominant discourse of the residents present is, granted, one of empathy but under one condition: not in my backyard. Sex work has no place in a gentrifying neighbourhood.

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