Excerpt:

Expectations were high when a Muslim woman from a North African background was made an instant star in France's new Socialist cabinet in May. Not only was Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 34, made minister for women's rights – a hugely important position in an administration committed to equality – but President François Hollande also appointed her official government spokesperson.

The narrative was clear: Vallaud-Belkacem had, after a relatively deprived childhood, overcome prejudice to embark on a glittering career. This energetic, socially aware young woman not only understood the values of the egalitarian French Republic, but personified them. By articulating her country's most pressing contemporary problems, she would be on the first step to solving them.

How disappointing, then, that Vallaud-Belkacem's most publicised policy announcement to date has been a pledge to "see prostitution disappear". She maintains that a country that has historically done more to romanticise the sex industry than any other can somehow eradicate it. All very noble, certainly, but cynics would consider Vallaud-Belkacem's grand plan a naive one, and typical of those that give radical governments a bad name.


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