Soon, It Could Be Illegal In France To Insult Someone Using This Kind Of Language

"All public spaces must be open to women."

In an effort to combat sexual harassment, France is again looking to crack down on the use of gender-based insults.

According to Bustle, the progressive tactic is the work of French president Emmanuel Macron, who announced less than a week ago that gendered slurs will soon be punishable under law and could lead to a "deterrent fine" for the offender. The announcement was made during a speech on November 25 — the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women — and was just one of the many ways the 39-year-old sought to lessen violence against women in France and around the world.



Though some may doubt the effectiveness of making gender-based insults illegal, there's evidence criminalizing the offense could work. For example, catcalling is a punishable offense in New Zealand, and the practice is virtually non-existent. 

Explained Macron, "Many harassers practice wolf-whistling and stigmatizing women in the streets verbally. For a long time, people reacted with indifference before [and] they did not respond when they were witnesses of such harassment. This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. All public spaces must be open to women."

Though Macron noted women frequently do not report when they are verbally harassed, he's hopeful criminalizing the use of sexist slurs will change that, and force law enforcement to take verbal harassment more seriously as well. "Even if the claims have been filed and accepted, the magistrate do not give priority. The judges do not give priority," he said. "So, it takes much longer for discrimination or harassment to be dealt with."

Reuters reports Macron's decision to make gender-based insults punishable by law is part of a larger national plan to fight sexism, sexual violence, and domestic violence against women, which was a major tenant of his presidential campaign. Other proposed changes Macron mentioned in his speech included educating secondary school children about pornography, and simplifying the system for rape and assault survivors to go to the police by permitting said survivors to make their initial complaints online via a 24-hour service prior to visiting a police station in person.

The French president later added, per the BBC, "It's indispensable that the idea of shame changes sides, that the Republic cleanses its own concept of shame; that the everyday criminals who harass, insult, touch, attack never be excused, but identified, vilified, brought to justice, condemned as firmly as they should be. And France should no longer be one of those countries where women live in fear."

Macron, who observed a minute of silence for the 123 women killed by their partner or ex-partner in France in 2016, also said he was considering extending the statute of limitations for the rape of children, and setting the age of sexual consent at 15. Currently, France has no minimum age for sexual consent.

While the aforementioned policies still need to be formally enacted, it's refreshing to see a male politician taking steps to ensure women's safety in a myriad of ways. 

Covver image via Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com

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