MPs in France have made it illegal to pay for sex, in a move designed to curb prostitution.
After two years of rows and opposition, the French Parliament passed the legislation – which means anyone caught trying to purchase sex will be fined.
Offenders will also be required to go to classes on the harms of prostitution.
A first offence fine would be €1,500, rising to €3,750 if a person is caught again. The second offence would also result in a criminal record.
French MPs passed the law by 64 votes to 12, although many were absent.
Head of the Socialist Party, Bruno Le Roux, welcomed the new law saying: “You don’t hire a woman like you hire a car, our society should no longer tolerate it.”
Last year, Northern Ireland also introduced legislation to make purchasing sex a criminal offence, following a landmark vote by the Stormont Assembly.
Assembly members voted 81 to 10 in favour of Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which aimed to tighten laws on prostitution and human trafficking in the Province.
Dan Boucher of Christian charity CARE said the move in Northern Ireland was of “seminal significance”.
“Criminalising paying for sex provides the most effective means of addressing that demand head on and has been very successful in Sweden, Norway and Iceland”, he commented.
Louise Gleich, CARE’s Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Officer, said: “Northern Ireland has set the pace. It is now for England, Wales and Scotland to try to catch up.”