France May Start Fining People For Catcalling And Street Harassment

"We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street."

France could soon take major steps to combat street harassment, thanks to a proposed law from Marlène Schiappa, the country's minister of gender equality. The BBC reports that plans for the law include on-the-spot fines for catcalling and other "lecherous" public behavior.

Politicians in France will reportedly work with magistrates and police to establish what constitutes such behavior. It will be voted on by MPs next year. According to a BBC translation, Schiappa told French publication RTL that legislation on this issue is "completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law," adding that victims "can't currently make a complaint."



"We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street," she said, citing things like following a woman several blocks or "asking for your number 17 times" as clear examples

Schiappa knows this from experience, as do most women around the world. She told NPR earlier this year that she started experiencing such harassment as a teen walking around Paris with her sister, recalling that they would take "alternate routes" to avoid "bands of boys."

"The goal is equality," Schiappa told NPR of the bill. As far as how much perpetrators would be fined for such behavior, it hasn't been set, but the minister told The Guardian in June, "Twenty euros would be a bit humiliating, €5,000 would be more of a deterrent." 

According to ABC News, the legislation would also extend the statute of limitations on the sexual assault of minors, as well as introducing a legal age under which a person cannot consent to sex. NPR also reports that earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron, who appointed women to half of his Cabinet positions, recently approved a law forbidding men found guilty of sexual assault from holding public office.

The issue of street harassment is an important one to address in more than just France. Research has shown that 84 percent of women in 22 surveyed countries have been catcalled before the age of 17, and more than half had been groped in public.

A woman in the Netherlands recently demonstrated just how common street harassment in particular can be when she started posting Instagram photos with men who catcalled her, collecting nearly two dozen in only a month. The hashtag #MeToo is also being used by many women on social media to let other women know they're not alone in their experiences.

It is vital that we take steps to tackle the culture that perpetuates this behavior. For France, that could mean making it illegal.

Cover image via DS_93 / Shutterstock.com.

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