Angry sex workers demonstrated outside the French parliament on Wednesday (December 4) after the French lower house of parliament passed a reform of prostitution law imposing fines on clients, a shift to tougher rules which has split the country.

Lawmakers voted 268 in favour and 138 against to give France some of the most restrictive legislation on prostitution in Europe - a radical switch away from the nation's traditionally tolerant attitude.

Around 100 sex workers gathered against the reform saying the law, which must also pass through the Senate upper house for a vote early next year, saying it will rob them of their livelihood and makes things worse.

Those seeking to buy sex will face a €1,500 fine, while the act of soliciting itself will no longer be punished.

Proponents of the reform point to rising human trafficking as a reason for tightening rules. Some 90 percent of France's estimated 20,000 to 40,000 prostitutes are victims of Nigerian, Chinese and Romanian trafficking networks, the government says.

That is a jump from just over a decade ago when only one in five prostitutes were foreign and mafia rings were much less omnipresent.

Legislation in France lies somewhere between laws in the Netherlands and Germany, where registered sex workers pay taxes and receive health benefits, and Sweden, where clients are already targeted.

Presented by Adam Justice