France to impose fines for street harassment of women

By AFP |October 17,2017 - 10:21 PM

Street harassment on women is now punishable in France.
/AFP

A new law will impose on-the-spot fines for harassment of women in the streets of France, a minister said on Monday.

This developed as the sex scandal engulfing Hollywood honcho Harvey Weinstein encouraged French women to tell their stories.

The legislation is being piloted by 34-year-old Marlene Schiappa, a feminist and early supporter of French President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces.

“It’s completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law,” Schiappa told RTL radio in an interview on Monday to outline the law, which is to be voted on next year.

The escalating scandal over Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults on a string of actresses — including four French actresses who have revealed their encounters with the producer — has made the issue of sexual harassment resurface in France.

The #MeToo hashtag has encouraged thousands of women around the world to share their experiences of abuse on Twitter, with French women also using #balancetonporc (“Expose the Pig”).

Schiappa, when asked about the difficulty of drawing a line between street harassment and flirtation, replied: “We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street.”

She cited examples such as when a man invades a woman’s personal space — “by talking to you 10, 20 centimeters from your face” — or follows a victim for several blocks, or “asks for your number 17 times.”

A cross-party task force has been asked to work with police and magistrates to come up with a definition of harassment that can be enforced by officers on the streets.

“The level of the fine is part of our discussions,” Schiappa said, adding that neighborhood police would act on complaints brought to their attention by women.

“The symbolic value of laws that outlaw street harassment is very great,” she also said.

The legislation would include provisions such as lengthening the amount of time women have to lodge sexual assault complaints dating from their childhood, and toughening laws on sex with minors.

Macron weighed in on the subject of sexual harassment during a televised interview on Sunday, saying: “What adds insult to injury is … the silence, the taboo. Today, too often, (women) don’t press charges because they don’t dare to.”

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