PAYING A PRICE

The first man is fined under France’s new anti-catcalling law

Standing up against violence against women.
Standing up against violence against women.
Image: REUTERS/Charles Platiau
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A 30-year-old man in France has become the first to be fined under a new law condemning catcalling.

Extremely drunk when he boarded a bus at rush hour last week, the man slapped a 21-year-old woman on her behind, then proceeded to tell her, “You have big breasts,” according to Le Monde (link in French). She complained to the bus driver, who confronted the man. He then became physical with the bus driver.

At a court in Evry, near Paris, the man was fined €300 ($353) for his comments and jailed for nine months (six of which are suspended) for slapping the woman and attacking the bus driver. France’s minister for gender equality, Marlène Schiappa, was instrumental in getting the outrage sexiste law passed in August, which allows on-the-spot fines of up to €750. The creation of the law was partly fuelled by a viral video of a 22-year-old architecture student being harassed while she walks past a Parisian cafe, only to be punched by the same man seconds later.

Schiappa, 35, recalled her first instance of catcalling when she was 14 in Paris and a man said something obscene to her. She rushed home to her parents. “They just told me, ‘Oh, that’s normal. It’s always like that,’” Schiappa told Time magazine. “I thought it was my fault and it was up to me to have a strategy to deal with it: which clothes to wear, which paths to take. I was resigned to it.”

The law is the cornerstone of a pushback by the millennial politician against the attitudes of past generations. “We’re lowering society’s threshold of tolerance,” Schiappa told the magazine. “We’ll no longer tolerate threats directed at women.” The minister was quick to hail the first use of the law in the courts: