French Lawmakers Want to Fine Catcallers On the Spot for Harassing Women
The country is setting an example for the rest of the world by cracking down on sexual harassment.
The #MeToo movement might have gotten its start in the U.S., but its impact is reaching much further. Recently, the movement sparked action by the French government to put forth a bill that would protect women from harassment-especially the kind that happens on the streets. You know it well: It's catcalling.
Now, under a new legislation passed by the country's National Assembly, catcallers could be fined hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for lewd behavior toward women in public. (Here are some helpful tips on how to respond (or not) to catcallers, BTW.)
So what is being considered as harassment under this particular bill? Anything that "infringes the freedom of movement of women in public spaces and undermines self-esteem and the right to security," reports The Washington Post.
Some of these acts include whistling at someone, following them, and asking for personal information, like a person's number, multiple times in a row. (ICYDK, "stealthing" is also a huge problem.)
The bill still needs to go through the French Senate to be passed, but it's being strongly backed by France's President, Emmanuel Macron, who wants to make sure that women "are not afraid to be outside," according to Reuters.
If the bill is passed, catcallers will have to pay fines starting at $106 and up to as much as $885 on the spot to law enforcement. Police officers as well as security personnel, including those who work on the French rail and Parisian public transit, will have the right to hold harassers accountable.
The fines will increase for repeat offenders, with offenders who can't seem to learn their lesson forking over as much as $3,529 for a single act of repeat harassment. (Related: This Woman Took Selfies With Catcallers to Make a Point About Street Harassment)
The female force behind the catcalling bill is Marlène Schiappa, France's minister for gender equality who has spent the last several months traveling the country explaining what the new law means and why it's important. Schiappa's efforts have proved worthwhile, with about 90 percent of the French public currently supporting the bill-not all that surprising considering so many women fall victim to this kind of harassment every day.
In fact, a 2016 survey by The Guardian revealed that 83 percent of women in France have experienced the type of street harassment that the new bill would make illegal.
"The idea is to lower the threshold of tolerance," Schiappa told Reuters outside the United Nations' session of the Commission on the Status of Women back in March. "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.'" (Related: Fitness Blogger Pens a Moving Post After Constantly Being Catcalled On the Streets)
Even still, the bill has received some pushback in France, and so has the #MeToo movement in general for the fear that it could endanger French romance and sexual freedom. (Yes, really.)
In response, Schiappa told Reuters: "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 française' 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." (Related: The Harsh Truth About Running Safety for Women)
Schiappa makes a crucial and defining point: There is a huge difference between cordially, even romantically talking to a woman versus explicit harassment. You can respectfully strike up a conversation, but to follow a woman around until she becomes uncomfortable and scared, or shouting suggestive comments at her while she's out on a run, is just downright wrong. That's why it's so amazing to see France take action in such a powerful way. Here's to hoping more governments are listening.