France proposes new sexual harassment laws, on-the-spot fines

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, French Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa says 'There can be no lawless zones.' A new French bill will extend the deadline for reporting sexual assault, and establish fines for public harassers. 

Laurent Cipriani/AP/File
French Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa delivers a speech in Chassieu, near Lyon, France, on Nov. 18, 2017. On March 21, France's government presented a bill to address sexual and gender-based violence, in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

France announced a series of measures against sexual violence on Wednesday, including on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment on the street and extended deadlines for filing rape complaints.

President Emmanuel Macron has said the bill is meant to ensure "women are not afraid to be outside," after a wave of sexual assault allegations leveled against men in the public eye around the world triggered a protest movement online.

Under the legislation, which still needs to be approved by parliament, under-age victims of rape will have until they are aged 48 to file a complaint, taking the deadline to 30 years after they turn 18, from 20 now.

The law will also set an age – 15 – under which one will be presumed not to have agreed to having sex with someone aged 18 or more. This age of consent will facilitate rape prosecutions, Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said.

Together with the age of consent, one of the most eye-catching aspects of the bill, whose main points have been publicly debated over the past few months, has been the plan to punish sexual harassment on the street with fines.

Ms. Schiappa said the fines, to be paid on the spot by offenders, would range from $110 to $920. They could reach $1,847 in the case of aggravating circumstances and $3,694 for repeat offenders.

"It is crucial that the laws of the republic make it clear that it is not allowed to harass or intimidate women ... whether in the public space, on public transport, or online," Schiappa told a news conference. "There can be no lawless zones."

The law has wide popular backing, an Ifop opinion poll showed.

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed agreed with extending the statute of limitations, 90 percent backed punishing harassment on the streets, and 69 percent supported setting at 15 the age for sexual consent, the poll carried out on March 1 and 2 for the website showed.

However, critics, including actress Catherine Deneuve, have either questioned how the law could be applied or mocked it as an end to French romance.

Responding to such criticism, Schiappa told Reuters last year: "There is some reluctance, some say we will kill the culture of the 'French lover' if we punish street harassment."

"But it's the opposite. We want to preserve seduction, chivalry, and 'l'amour à la francaise' by saying what is key is consent. Between consenting adults everything is allowed, we can seduce, talk, but if someone says 'no,' it's 'no' and it's final," she said.

Schiappa has said street harassment would cover situations such as asking a woman for her phone number a dozen times when she has made clear she is not interested.

The bill will also introduce tougher sanctions for group harassment online by making clear that every single person that is taking part will have to answer for it, even if they just sent a few tweets, Schiappa said.

This article was reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to France proposes new sexual harassment laws, on-the-spot fines
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today