One minister in France is pushing the fight against sexual harassment to another level.
Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, is proposing legislation that will fine men on the spot for catcalling women and other public harassment.
Schiappa told RTL Radio that making harassment a crime was “completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law … we can’t currently file a complaint.”
It is not clear how much a person would be fined and exactly how they would get caught, but the details are being worked out, officials said.
The law won’t be voted on until next year, after consultation with law enforcement is done to come up with a legal definition of street harassment.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal triggered such shockwaves in France that it is set to boost the fight against sexual harassment there, the minister, tasked with drafting a law to crack down on violence against women, said on Friday.
In the wake of the Weinstein affair, the question was raised in the French parliament with clear calls to change things in a country which cherishes its reputation as a land of romance.
Schiappa told the house that harassment was “a defining issue of our civilization”.
Over the past week, more than 300,000 accounts of sexual harassment or abuse have been published under the French #balancetonporc or #squealonyourpig hashtag on Twitter after stars publicly accused the Hollywood mogul Weinstein of sexual assault.
Movie producer Weinstein has been accused by numerous women of having sexually harassed or assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1980s, including three who said they were raped. Weinstein denies having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Schiappa told Reuters on Friday (October 20) this was different from previous, short-lived debates on sexual harassment that followed scandals involving French politicians over the past decade.
“Our society is listening and is outraged,” said the 34-year old blogger-turned-minister.
This week she kicked off a series of nation-wide consultations over a law due to be unveiled early next year that will include steps to fight sexual harassment on the streets as well as extend the statute of limitation for rape of minors.
The government’s anti-sexual harassment plans and the #squealonyourpig trend on Twitter have however faced some criticism by conservative pundits who billed them as an attack against the French way of life.
Much of the debate focuses on plans to slap fines on harassment on the street and whether that is really feasible.
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