A new French law will fine men on-the-spot for harassing women in public

Break the silence.
Break the silence.
Image: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
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France is considering a new law that fines men on-the-spot for catcalling and other forms of street harassment.

France’s gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa announced plans on Monday (Oct 16) to set up a task force made up of politicians, police officers, and court officials to clearly define the sort of behavior that constitutes sexual harassment. Schiappa had also launched a citizen’s consultation over the proposed legislation. The French bill will be voted on by MPs next year.

“The point is that the whole of society has to redefine what it will accept and what it will not,” Schiappa told La Croix (link in French), a Catholic newspaper.

Schiappa’s announcement comes amid intense debate on sexual harassment and assault. After reams of women stepped forward to recount being sexual harassed by Hollywood heavy hitter Harvey Weinstein, French radio journalist Sandra Muller urged French women to #balancetonporc (squeal on your pig) on Twitter and publicly shame their attackers. The hashtag topped French Twitter’s trending list last weekend. This added force to the global #metoo campaign, in which women share their everyday experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Speaking to RTL (link in French), Schiappa said the French bill was “completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law… We can’t currently make a complaint.” The bill will also tackle sexual assaults on children, establishing a clear age for consent, after a court in Paris shockingly ruled that an 11-year-old girl had consented to sex (paywall) with a 28-year-old.

France’s first lady Brigitte Macron chimed in this week, urging women to “break the silence” about abusive men. “I think that all this (harassment) must stop very quickly. Freeing up speech is the best thing that could happen. (Those who speak out) are very brave to do so. I urge them to break their silence. It’s wonderful. Something is happening, really,” she said after attending Les Chatouilles (Tickling), a one-woman play by Andréa Bescond at a Paris theatre. Macron had attended the play with justice minister Nicole Belloubet and gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa.

President Emmanuel Macron said last Sunday (Oct 12) that he would be stripping Weinstein of the prestigious Legion D’Honneur award, which he was granted by former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.