5 Ways France Will Try to Stop Sexual Harassment and Abuse

The United States is not the only country grappling with a recent rash of sexual assault allegations and a #MeToo social media campaign. Rape and sexual harassment have also been a major part of the discourse in the past few months for France, as well. There’s one big difference: politicians in France actually want to do something about it.

That’s right, while multiple members of the U.S. Congress try to mitigate the sexual assault allegations against them, France isn’t attempting to sweep what is clearly a major problem for the country under the rug. President Emmanuel Macron along with cooperation of legislators have created an ambitious agenda to help women face less harassment.

Macron highlighted some of the upcoming changes on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“Many women have said that the first sexist violence they meet is in the street,” said Macron. “Many harassers practice wolf whistling and other types of verbal stigmatization, and for a long time people reacted with indifference. This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. Women in the republic must not be afraid to use public spaces. This must be one of the priorities of the police.”

Here are some of the steps France is expecting to take:

1. Fining Street Harassers

Street harassment is a common occurrence in France; in order to decrease the rate of this obnoxious, sometimes frightening, behavior, France is looking to institute rules that will make intimidating and unwelcomed advances like catcalling, whistling, following a woman for several blocks and making sexist insults against the law, punishable with a monetary fine.

Though some are worried that such laws will criminalize “flirting,” there’s obviously a distinction to be made between an innocent greeting and unwanted attention/harassment. To enforce these rules, police will be around to ticket rule-breakers on the spot, hopefully discouraging habitual cat callers.

2. Changes in Reporting Sexual Assault

To start, women will have the option to file sexual assault reports online before having to face the police in person. The hope is that by making the first step easier, more women will come forward, and that sexual assault victims will prefer to type their experience rather than having to say it to an officer and feel judged.

Victims will also have the ability to go to the hospital to have a rape test conducted prior to talking to the police. Because a lot of times victims are too traumatized to put themselves through the whole reporting process immediately after being assaulted, this allows evidence to be collected for a later investigation, while giving the victim time to decide if they even want to press charges.

3. Establishing a Minimum Age of Consent

In recent times, cases have been begrudgingly dropped against men who had sexual contact with frighteningly young girls because prosecutors have had too much trouble demonstrating that coercion or violence took place to classify it as a rape.

To use a recent case as an example, does an 11-year-old girl really have the capacity and maturity to consent to sex with a 30-year-old man? The easiest way to hold men accountable for inappropriate conduct like that is to determine a clear age at which a girl can legally consent – after all, these laws exist in most other countries.

4. “On Demand” Bus Service

In order to make sure women feel safe when walking home at night, riders will have the ability to stop buses after dark.

Bus drivers won’t alter their routes, but they will be compelled to stop wherever a woman might ask along their assigned routes to cut down on their walk time and make sure they get home quicker. Nighttime street harassment should be reduced by virtue of men encountering fewer women walking long distances whom they can pester.

5. Education About Pornography

Teenagers in school will have the subject of pornography added to their sex education classes. Adults often avoid this uncomfortable topic, yet kids are able to easily access pornography online. A lot of young people have a confused understanding of sex and consent after watching these graphic videos, therefore it’s appropriate to address the subject head-on.

Although most women in France are supportive and appreciative of these ideas, they are also calling on the government to provide sufficient funding to make sure these ideas aren’t established in name only. Without money for things like more police officers, additional buses and a pornography curriculum, change will be insignificant, warns Osez le Feminisme, a leading feminist group in France.

Certainly, though, it’s a step in the right direction. Other countries – COUGH like the United States COUGH – will hopefully use France’s agenda as a guide to make some changes of its own.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

46 comments

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga19 hours ago

thx

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Mike R
Mike R1 days ago

Very progressive. Thanks

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Marija M
Marija M2 days ago

Tks for sharing - hope they succeed...

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Marija M
Marija M2 days ago

tks

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Marigold A
Marigold A2 days ago

Can it really be enforced?

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Ann B
Ann B3 days ago

wonder why USA cant have this??

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Winn Adams
Winn A3 days ago

tks

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Winn Adams
Winn A3 days ago

Noted

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s3 days ago

Do so like that man. His efforts mustn't go unnoticed by other countries. Thank you

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Cecilia Ekbäck

These suggestions are very good and should be implemented in other contries as well. It is time to tell men who think with their privates to start thinking with their brains. If they have any, sometimes I have my doubts.

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