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Street harassers in France would face steep fines under new law

French lawmakers are now considering fining men on-the-spot for sexual harassment and abuse.

by Alexa Liautaud
Oct 19 2017, 11:45am

Catcalling, wolf whistling, and inappropriate comments may finally come with a price — at least in one country. French lawmakers are now considering fining men on the spot for sexual harassment and abuse.

The proposed law, to be passed next year, would institute fines “when someone breaks into your vital space, talks to you within 10 or 20 centimeters of your face, follows you for three, four, five or six streets, or asks for your telephone number about 17 times,” France’s Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa told RTL, a French radio station, on Monday.

While the amount hasn’t been decided yet, the fine would be a sum someone could pay immediately, according to Schiappa. “Twenty euros would be a bit humiliating. Five thousand euros would be more of a deterrent,” she told the Guardian in June.

A team of five French parliamentarians from different parties will work on the legislation to determine what defines harassment and how the fine can be enforced by police officers.

The legislation would also raise the age at which minors can consent to a sexual relationship to at least 13, according to reports. Only children under the age of 5 in France are currently considered incapable of consent.

In 2012, France passed a law that criminalized sexual sexual harassment all together, defined as “the imposition of a person, repeatedly remarks or behavior of a sexual nature that is impairing its dignity because of their character or degrading humiliating, or create a situation against her intimidating, hostile or offensive.” It’s punishable by up to a year in prison and a 15,000-euro fine.

Still, that legislation failed to impose a distinct definition for street harassment, which commonly occurs in France. “It’s completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law,” Schiappa said of the proposed law in the RTL interview.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, thousands of French women posted on social media about their own experiences of sexual harassment, including French actress Lea Seydoux, who posted about Weinstein specifically. In addition to the viral #MeToo campaign, France also adopted another online movement called #BalanceTonPorc or #ExposeYourPig, credited to French journalist Sandra Muller.

While it’s hard to say how likely the law is to pass, President Emmanuel Macron indicated on Sunday he would take a stand against sexual harassment in France. He took the steps the same day to strip Weinstein of his French Legion d’Honneur Award, one of the most prestigious awards given in France.

France’s Parliament under Macron also passed a sweeping ethics reform bill in June that included banning men convicted of sexual assault from holding public office.

Cover image: Activists attend a demonstration a day after the French Constitutional Council decided the immediate repeal of the law on sexual harassment, in Paris May 5, 2012. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)