To say women have the right to sell themselves is to disguise the
fact that men have the right to buy them”
The French parliament is debating a bill which would crack down on prostitution by imposing hefty fines on anyone paying for sex.
Prostitution is legal in France but until now only soliciting and pimping were illegal.
Under the bill, those caught paying for sex would face an initial fine of 1,500 euros (£1,250; $2,030).
Meanwhile, a man has reportedly been arrested for the horrific murder of a prostitute in Paris earlier this week.
Critics of the bill say it would drive the sex trade underground in a country which has up to 40,000 prostitutes.
The actress Catherine Deneuve is one of hundreds of celebrity figures urging the government to reconsider.
A similar resolution was voted through the National Assembly at the end of 2011, with the support of both left and right. It only failed to proceed because of lack of parliamentary time.
A new vote is scheduled for Wednesday. The ruling Socialists, with their large parliamentary majority, are expected to vote it through.
Tim Leicester of the non-governmental organisation Medecins du Monde said he feared the French proposal to penalise paying for sex would actually harm prostitutes.
“That won’t change anything for prostitutes,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“They will be forced to continue to hide themselves because even if they are not risking arrest, their clients are. And their survival depends on their clients.”
One prostitute, Xiao Chuan, said she feared that clients might want to take prostitutes “to places that are more and more hidden, for example basements, car parks, forests… isolated places that we are afraid of because we won’t be secure”.
However, Rosen Hicher, a former prostitute who is now an activist, argued that targeting clients was the only way to stop prostitution.
“You need to tackle the root of the evil,” she said. “Prostitution is kept up by clients and the only way reduce it – because of course the mentalities need to evolve – the only way to stop it is to punish the client.”