France Criminalizes Street Harassment

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According to HuffPost, French lawmakers voted on Thursday to criminalize street harassment amid recent attacks against women in public spaces. The bill was unanimously approved by the French National Assembly with a total of 92 votes.

The newly approved bill makes catcalling a criminal offense with an immediate fine of up to 750 euros. Offenders could potentially be fined more depending on the severity of the harassment.

This law comes just days after a woman was physically attacked outside a cafe in Paris after responding to a stranger’s catcalls. The victim of the assault, Marie Laguerre, posted a video of the incident to Facebook, in which an unknown man can be seen throwing an ashtray at Laguerre and slapping her across the face for telling him to “shut up” after he catcalled her. The video has since gone viral.

“I can’t keep quiet, and we mustn’t stay silent hoping it’ll make things [change] for all women who suffer from harassment and sexist violence on a daily basis,” Laguerre said on Facebook.

The French minister of gender equality and author of the legislation, Marlene Schiappa, commented on the importance of her bill on Europe 1 Radio.

“Harassment in the street has previously not been punished. From now on, it will be. What’s key is…that the laws of the French republic forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening and following women in public spaces.”

In addition, the bill redefines the age of sexual consent to 15 and aims to impose harsher penalties for online harassment. Lastly, the measure will extend the statute of limitations for underage survivors of rape to an additional 10 years, allowing victims a total of 30 years from their 18th birthday to report a rape and go to trial.

Following the passing of the legislation on Thursday, Schiappa tweeted the following.

“The law against sexist and sexual violence has been passed unanimously. Thank you to the parliamentarians. This is not an end but the beginning of a resolute implementation to eradicate violence against women, a change of society.”

Critics of the bill argue that it will be the death of romance in France, but Schiappa countered that sexual harassment and violence have nothing to do with romance, adding that France needs to stop tolerating the harassment of women.

Laguerre, who has received international attention for sharing her video and her bravery, has also created a website titled “Nous Toutes Harcelement,” meaning “We are all harassed,” which allows other victims of harassment to share their stories.