Men in France could face €90 fines for making sexist comments in the street


France could hit men with minimum €90 fines if they are caught making loud and lewd comments in public places about a woman's body or appearance, under new proposals put forward to the government to tackle the scourge of street harassment.

A new government report recommends the €90 fine for "behavior that is an infringement of the freedom of movement of women in public spaces and undermines self-esteem and the right to security."

The goal is to battle the long-standing problem of so-called "everyday sexism" on France's streets.

The politicians who worked on the report were tasked with defining what constitutes "sexual outrage" and how to punish it.

Earlier reports suggested wolf-whistling would be subject to on-the-spot fines, but there is no mention of this in the new parliamentary report, according to La Croix newspaper.

But fines could be handed out to those caught following women on the street, blocking their paths or making loud and lewd comments on their physique or appearance, according to reports.

It has been suggested that the fine will start at €90 for those who can pay immediately and will increase to €135 (for payment within 15 days) and could even go up to €375 if the payment is late.

The goal is to battle the everyday sexism on France's streets. The politicians who worked on the report were tasked with defining what constitutes "sexual outrage" and how to punish it.

The fines are just one of the proposals in the parliamentary report that was due to be presented on Wednesday to France's Secretary of State for Equality, Marlene Schiappa, Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, and Minister of the Interior, Gerard Collomb.

However the presentation has been postponed until next week. The three ministers will have the last say on the bill before it is put to parliament.

The legislation has been piloted by 34-year-old Schiappa, a feminist and early supporter of French President Emmanuel Macron who wants to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces.


Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr

"We must make the public space egalitarian," said Elise Fajgeles, MP for the 5th district of Paris. "So that women no longer feel compelled to cope with outrageous behavior."

But although the measure will no doubt be welcomed by women's rights groups and others in France, there is the difficult question of enforcing it. Culprits will have to be caught in the act.

"I think the new law is a lovely idea, but how can you really apply it?" Emeline Augris, a 40-year-old Parisian woman told The Local in October 2017 when the idea of the new law was first mooted.

However Fajgeles says that "it is not a question of putting a policeman behind everyone."

The legislator must set a framework and say: we do not behave in this way," she said.

In October, the Equalities Minister Schiappa said: "It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law."

According to one survey carried out by the High Council of Gender Equality in the area around Paris, 100 percent of women have experienced the scourge of sexual harassment at least once on public transport, 82 percent of whom are aged under 17.

From February the city will experiment with allowing people on certain buses the chance to hop off at night even when the vehicle isn't at a designated stop and will be hiring 650 more staff members dressed in plain clothes to monitor safety on trains and buses.


Paris rolls out 'on demand bus stops' in bid to fight sexual harassmentPhoto: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)/Wikicommons

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