If You Catcall A Woman In France, You Can Now Be Fined As Much As $885

"We have to say: 'Young men, you don’t have the right, you’re not allowed to follow women on the streets, to intimidate them.'"

In 2016, a study by a national association of transport users in France found that 83 percent of women reported experiencing street harassment in the form of catcalling or intimidating comments about their appearance. Now, in the wake of the international #MeToo Movement, France is taking action by passing a catcalling law.

On Wednesday, legislators in the National Assembly (the country's lower house of Parliament) passed a bill to curb sexual harassment and violence. One of the bill's most notable features is a fine of up to $885 forstreet harassers and catcallers. Proposed by Marlène Schiappa, the minister for gender equality, the bill garnered 90 percent of the French public's support, according to a poll released in March.

While the proposal still needs Senate approval, President Emmanuel Macron showed his support for the progressive measures, saying they would make it so "women are not afraid to be outside."

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On October 29, 2017, public demonstrators in Toulouse, France denounced sexual harassment. The banner reads, "Male violence = women agony."  Shutterstock 

The bill is in many ways revolutionary, including how it broadly defines street harassment as anything that "infringes the freedom of movement of women in public spaces and undermines self-esteem and the right to security." Officials cited examples to the Washington Post that included whistling at a woman, pestering her for her phone number, or following her down the street. "We have to say: 'Young men, you don't have the right, you're not allowed to follow women on the streets, to intimidate them,'" Schiappa said at the U.N. in March. 

Fines for one-time offenses range from $110 to $885, which perpetrators must pay to police officers on the spot. Repeat offenders could face up to $3,500 in fines. "The idea is that it is high enough to be a deterrent but also that we could be sure the harasser can pay it immediately, so that the law can be efficient," Schiappa told The Guardian

Besides street harassment, the French bill plans to increase sanctions on cyberstalkers and online sexual harassers, especially when several people target one person. It also addresses more serious acts of sexual violence, including underage rape and age of consent. The proposed law would give rape survivors assaulted before age 18 an additional decade to press charges, increasing the total amount of time to 30 years. 

French lawmakers have also proposed statutory rape laws, which would make it illegal for someone over 18 to have sex with someone under 15. However, the country's highest administrative court cautioned this "could be seen as violating an adult's presumption of innocence and would be therefore declared unconstitutional." In lieu of a formal legal age of consent law, legislators classified sex with a child under 15 as rape if the minor "lacked the necessary discernment to consent."

Cover image via  Victoria Chudinova / Shutterstock.

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