Loi Marthe Richard

Loi Marthe Richard (Marthe Richard Law) of April 13, 1946 abolished the regime of regulated prostitution in France that had been in force since 1804. It required the closure of brothels ("maisons de tolérance"). The law bears the name of Marthe Richard, who was a municipal councillor of Paris but not a parliamentary representative.[1]

Loi Marthe Richard
National Assembly (France)
CitationLoi n°46-685 du 13 avril 1946
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Territorial extentMetropolitan France
Enacted byNational Assembly (France)
EnactedApril 13, 1946
CommencedApril 14, 1946
Introduced byMarthe Richard
Status: In force

Build up to the law

On December 13, 1945, Marthe Richard, elected councillor of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, presented to the Conseil municipal de Paris a proposal for the closure of Paris brothels.[2] In her speech, she does not attack prostitutes as much as society, responsible in her view, of "organised and patent debauchery" and organized crime, which benefits from regulated prostitution. She also reminds the council that prostitution was complicit with the German occupation during WW2.[3] The proposal was voted and on December 20, 1945, the police prefect, Charles Luizet, was authorised to close, without notice, the houses of prostitution in the Department of the Seine within 3 months (by March 15, 1946 at the latest).

Encouraged by this success, Marthe Richard started a press campaign for a vote on a law generalising these measures to all France.[4] It is supported by the "Ligue pour le relèvement de la moralité publique" (League of Social and Moral Action) and by the Minister of Public Health and Population, Robert Prigent.[3]

On April 9, 1946, MP Marcel Roclore presented the report of the Committee on the Family, Population and Public Health, and concluded that the closure of brothels was necessary. The deputy Pierre Dominjon, member of the Ligue pour le relèvement de la moralité publique, tabled a proposal for a law which was voted on April 13, 1946 in the Chamber of Deputies. The closure of brothels takes effect from November 6, 1946. Withdrawing the administrative authorizations without compensation marked the end of legalisation and the start of a policy of abolitionism.[5]


After the adoption of the law, Marthe Richard ensured that article 5, which ended keeping national files on prostitution, in which she was still recorded, was enacted.[6] These police records were replaced by a health and social file for prostitutes (law of April 24, 1946) in order to prevent prostitutes with a STI trying to evade the treatment of their disease. This law was little applied and was repealed on July 28, 1960, the date of French ratification of the United Nations Convention of December 2, 1949 for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.[7] (France's late ratification of the convention was due to the existence of brothels in its colonial empire).[8]

Approximately 1,400 establishments were closed, including 195 in Paris (177 official establishments): the best known were Le Chabanais, Le Sphinx, La Fleur blanche, One-Two-Two but also the maissons d’abattage (“slaughterhouses”) such as Le Fourcy and the Lanterne Verte.[9]

This law caused smiles at the Brigade Mondaine of the 3rd floor of 36, quai des Orfèvres since it emanated from Marthe Richard, who was herself a prostitute until around 1915, when she wanted to make a clean sweep of her past. The police do not like the law because it risks depriving it of one of its sources of information (from the prostitutes). Prostitution was still a legal activity, only its organization, exploitation (procuring), its visible manifestations and offense of soliciting are prohibited by law, however the police continue to tolerate bawdy houses. Many brothel owners turned themselves into owners of clandestine inns concentrated around French and American military barracks as well as in major cities. Whilst the law provided for the collection of prostitutes in "reception and outplacement centers", many continued their activities clandestinely.[10]

Critics of French prostitution policy, such as Mouvement du Nid, question how effective this was, its implementation, and whether it really closed the "maisons". For instance, they point to the presence of military brothels in Algeria till 1960.[11]


  1. Blume, Mary (3 August 2006). "A postwar heroine who fooled France". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. "Marthe Richard". France-TV (in French). 4 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  3. Ripa, Yannick (January 2013). "1946 : la fin du " French system "". L'Histoire (in French). Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  4. On 19 December 1945, the editor of the Le Canard enchaîné, Pierre Bénard said in an article under the title of Acquisition of Tartuffe: "There is no electricity. There is no coal. There is no wine. There are no potatoes and the victims are still waiting for a roof (...). Fleeing these depressing debates, the Parisian city councilors devote two long sessions to discuss the suppression of brothels (177 in the capital, around 1500 in France). Mme Marthe Richard, the well known spy opened the debate!"
  5. Allinne, Jean-Pierre (2004). Gouverner le crime: Les politiques criminelles françaises de la révolution au XXIème siècle - Tome 2 - Le temps des doutes 1920-2004 (in French) (2004 ed.). Editions L'Harmattan. p. 83–84. ISBN 9782296369917.
  6. Charbonneau, Nicolas; Guimier, Laurent (2010). Le Roman des Maisons Closes. Editions du Rocher. ISBN 9782268069906. ASIN 2268069907.
  7. Giusta, Ms Marina Della; Munro, Professor Vanessa E (2013-02-28). Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution. google.ca. ISBN 9781409496175.
  8. Ouvrard, Lucile (2000). La prostitution: analyse juridique et choix de politique criminelle (in French). Harmattan. p. 89. ISBN 9782738493989.
  9. Willemin, Véronique (2009). La Mondaine: Histoire et archives de la police des mœurs. Hoëbeke. p. 120. ISBN 9782842303594. ASIN 2842303598.
  10. Frachon, Matthieu (2011). 36, quai des Orfèvres: Des hommes, un mythe (in French). Editions du Rocher. p. 197. ISBN 9782268004921.
  11. "Mouvement du Nid". mouvementdunid.org. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27.


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