French Government Will Fight Sexual and Gender Harassment with Fines

The rumors have been circulating for months since #balancetonporc took social media by storm last October as a part of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment. Today, they prove true as the Junior minister for gender equality Marlene Schiappa announced the government’s proposed bill to fight sexual and gender-based violence with on-the-spot fines for street and public harassment.

The proposed fines range from €90-€750 ($110-$920) depending on the offense, €1500 ($1,845) for “aggravating circumstances,” and €3000 ($3,690) for repeat offenders. “The idea is that it is high enough to be a deterrent but also that we could be sure the harasser can pay it immediately, so that the law can be efficient,” Schiappa explained.

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Additionally, the bill extends the statute of limitations on sex crimes to allow prosecution for 30 years, up from 20 years, once the victim has turned 18. The bill also has sanctions for combatting cyberstalking and cyber-harassment. Finally, the bill proposes the age of consent for any sexual activity with an adult be set to 15. This proposed change comes on the heels of a public outcry in France after a 28-year-old man who had sex with 11-year-old girl faced court charges of only “sexual infraction” rather than rape because the girl was deemed to be old enough to consent.

The public has given widespread approval to the bill according to an IFOP poll. 92% of French people agree with extending the statute of limitations, 90% agree with on-the-spot fines for sexual and gender harassment against women in public spaces, and 69% agree with the establishment of an age of consent set at 15. Men and women polled generally see eye to eye on the issue of on-the-spot fines for street and public harassment, with 93% of women and 86% of men favorable to the idea.

“There is some reluctance, some say we will kill the culture of the ‘French lover’ … if we punish street harassment,” Schiappa told Reuters. “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.”

The bill will be debated in the French parliament this spring.