France’s gender equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, on Monday set out plans for new legislation aimed at fighting sexual violence and harassment.
Schiappa, 31, told RTL radio in an interview that the new law, to be voted on next year, would among other things impose on-the-spot fines on people harassing women in the streets or indulging in lecherous behavior in public.
“It’s completely necessary, because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law,” she said.
When asked how to draw a line between street harassment and flirtation, Schiappa replied: “We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street,” citing as an example when a man “asks for your number 17 times” or follows a victim for several blocks.
Defining the crime
A taskforce of five French parliamentarians from across the political spectrum is currently working to define harassment in a way that allows officers on the streets to enforce the law. Schiappa said that they would among other things discuss the level of the fine.
Some countries, such as Portugal and Argentina, already have laws banning street harassment and catcalling.
Other parts of the legislation will lengthen the time women have to lodge sexual assault complaints going back to their childhood, and establish an age below which a child cannot legally give consent to sexual acts.
The latter legislation comes in response to the controversial case of a man who is being prosecuted only for sexual abuse and not rape because his victim, aged just 11, is considered under French law to have given her consent. The first offense carries a maximum jail sentence of just five years, compared with 20 for rape of a minor.
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