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France Repeals Sexual Harassment Law

France Repeals Sexual Harassment Law

France has been making headlines in the wake of a close presidential race. Francois Hollande is putting pressure on incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Sunday’s election will decide who will lead France for the coming years. Hollande has consistently attempted to portray himself as a feminist, determined to shake up the political system by ensuring there will be an equal number of men and women in government if he is elected. According to The Guardian, Hollande also wants to reinstate a ministry of women’s rights.

These claims of feminist allegiance on the part of Hollande come into play at the perfect moment. France repealed a sexual harassment law on Friday, stirring up debates about the saftey of the workplace for women in France during the intervening months as new sexual harassment legislation is drafted. Supporters of the repeal argue that the law was too vague and did not lead to enough convictions while it was on the books, according to Reuters.

Conversely, opponents of the repeal argue that the lack of legal coverage leaves women under threat of sexual harassment until new legislation is invoked. Hollande has already promised that if elected, he would ensure new sexual harassment legislation will  be more specific and lead to more convictions.

The law that was just repealed defined an offense as “The act of harassing others with the goal of obtaining sexual favors.” Yet, even if the law did not lead to a high number of convictions, now that there is no active legislation protecting individuals hurt by sexual harassment, any current cases will be thrown out, leaving victims with no recourse.

The repeal of legislation that serves as a protective barrier against unwanted advances in the workplace only partially reveals the tense setting of feminist work in France, which Hollande has taken on as an essential part of his election platform. Elisabeth Badinter, one of the most well-known and influential feminists in France just released a book entitled “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.” The book questions the pressure modern societies put on women to be perfect mothers who tend to their children with undying attention and affection.

Badinter argues that these modern pressures put a moral obligation on a mother to act in a certain way, thereby undermining her rights to work and making her feel that the unattainable ideal of motherhood is something she should refrain from undertaking.

It seems an interesting juxtaposition that Badinter’s book hit the market in English in the last month just as France is attempting to reposition and redirect its policies regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Badinter’s notion of female victimhood in the face of an oppressive motherhood seems slightly myopic if we consider that women, and men, will be left without any legal recourse while new legislation is drafted.

There is no guarantee of when the law would be written or how quickly it would go into effect. The tense political situation regarding women’s rights in France also comes in the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair. The former presidential hopeful has been accused of pressuring women into sexual acts. He is still facing allegations of “aggravated pimping,” according to MSN.

The frought relationship between politics, legislation, the presidential seat and active feminism in France promises to produce more interesting results in the coming weeks.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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5:57AM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

It is saddening to note the increasing inequality that our so called legal systems are imposing upon women, even in first world countries. I am delighted to know at least one politician in the world is calling for an equal number of men and women in government. This has to happen in all walks of life. How can there be peace without equality? We need balanced perspectives, just as we need balanced brains and hearts. I hope he gets elected. It's a big step in the right direction for humanity.

1:56PM PDT on May 16, 2012

Whose idea was this, D.S.K.'s?

5:53AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Thanks for the article.

1:51PM PDT on May 7, 2012

This country retained its name as the top model of capitalism in the world. Generosity from a new elect.

Huber.

5:25PM PDT on May 6, 2012

Disheartening! The war on women is truly world-wide.

5:08PM PDT on May 6, 2012

When you get right down to it...start by inflicting it upon women and they start in on the other groups......we all suffer if we are not perfect in this day of so-called perfect fanatics stalking all of us...men women children and every other group......these groups like to inflict their dirt upon those of us who are innocent.

1:54PM PDT on May 6, 2012

May I be one of the first to congratulate Francois Hollande on becoming the next president of France. At long last people of France and Europe will not have to put up with the smug, arrogant, pompous pig called Sarkozy.

At long last a major political player in Europe will no longer be playing the Austerity First card. Rather Francois Hollande has promised Jobs and Growth, balanced against waste. That will be a shot across the bows for the majority of European leaders who favor Austerity and nothing but Austerity.

I wish Francois Hollande lots of success, his job will not be easy, but he does have in his favor the "New Moral Ground".

1:30PM PDT on May 6, 2012

noted

11:35AM PDT on May 6, 2012

Sad news. How disgusting to think that in this day and age France would do this to the women of their country.

11:18AM PDT on May 6, 2012

Thanks for the information

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