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Catcalls Plague France’s National Assembly, a Country Without a Sexual Harassment Law

Catcalls Plague France’s National Assembly, a Country Without a Sexual Harassment Law


In May of this year, France’s court decided to repeal their sexual harassment law. The law was repealed because many felt that the parameters of the legislation were too vague, leading to less convictions and ultimately not serving the victims of sexual harassment. The biggest problem with the decision to repeal the law was that any current cases, and any incidents that occurred during the hiatus of the existing French sexual harassment law, are left without recourse for the victims involved.

Courts are still mulling over the definition of the newest sexual harassment law, but women in the National Assembly still face extremely sexist and unprofessional working conditions. The Associated Press notes that Cabinet minister Cecile Duflot was catcalled and hooted at during an assembly while she presented an urban development plan.

This Tuesday the same National Assembly that outright harassed one of it’s female cabinet members in public while she attempted to speak, began to work on passing the new sexual harassment law. The government is attempting to pass the law as quickly as possible in order to reinstate some protection for victims of harassment.

The new legislation means that any sexual harassment case will not reach a judge in court for 24 months from the time the incidents are reported. The new law would also make sexual harassment a criminal offense that could include three years in prison.

New president Francois Hollande championed women’s rights during his campaign and pledged to push for more women in the government. He also pledged to draft a new sexual harassment law as soon as possible. Despite Hollande’s call for change, many women in France face extremely sexist working and living conditions. The Associated Press quotes Asma Guenifi, president of Neither Prostitutes nor Doormats, a French feminist group: “My fear today is that this new law won’t be clear enough, protective enough or global enough.”

Guenifi concluded that many women fear retaliation in the workplace in the wake of the new law. The intimidating environment of the National Assembly illustrates how prevalent the belittling of women in professional environments continues to be in France. One Deputy at the National Assembly stood up for the catcalls made at Duflot, stating it was a form of “paying homage to this woman’s beauty.”

While the original reason for repealing the initial sexual harassment law was that it was not comprehensive or powerful enough, it’s hard not to question some of the preliminary elements of the new law. It takes two years for a sexual harassment case to actually make it in front of a judge? What kinds of hoops will a victim of sexual blackmail or abuse in the workplace have to jump through in order to actually make it to the courtroom to convict the harasser? Hostile gestures and repeated sexually suggestive gestures only merit one year of prison once the case does make it in front of a judge. The new legislation may indeed be passed relatively quickly, but may be no better at protecting sexual harassment victims than the former law.


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Photo Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen

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5:44AM PDT on Jun 12, 2013

This blog post is really great; the standard stuff of the post is genuinely amazing.
Click here

1:52PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012


9:30AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Dear Troy G.,

yes, in theory, in France, women have the same wages and privileges as men, and can defend themselves... as long as they are not wearing a dress or a skirt. If they do wear a dress, they will get harassed by school boys AND by members of the Assemblée Nationale, and never get to finish a sentence.

Please see the movie "La jupe", if you haven't already. It's just a fictional example of what I mean. The video in the article is, unfortunately, real.

10:23AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

Some men are SO INSECURE. They all need mommies. That's why they marry. They never get over their childhood breast obsession either. The misogyny through the ages is simply based on fear of women so they control them the only way they know how..brute force & fear.

3:37AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

How sad that humans have to try to legislate everything; if only reason and sanity really would guide more of people's behavior and decisions.

12:53PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Why on earth would the government repeal the sexual harassment law before having another to replace it? Oh right, it was Sarkozy's government, the conservatives (like Republicans) that did that.

Boehner tried the same tactic --- repealing the ACA first, and then work on a better piece of legislation. Uh ... in one word "No!" That too is suicide for the people and there is nothing to protect the citizenry.

@ Jeremy S --- " seems their government needs to grow up some."

I dare say it isn't the French government that needs to grow up, but French men.

12:46PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012


11:03AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

kinda like here back in the 50's

9:00AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Hello France - you repealed what sexual harrassment law there was, so now there isn't any - and that means the women in France cannot even get respect or protection from the law
when harrassed. Unacceptable. If you want your women mistreated, that's up to you, but if I visit your country, I better not be mistreated. Make a new law to cover the rights of women, protect them from vile treatment!

8:57AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Unlike in America, women in France enjoy the same privileges and wages as men do. They can defend themselves as well as any man, without the need for government intervention.

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