Men May Soon Face Hefty Fines for Catcalling Women in France
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he will strip Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of his prestigious Légion D'Honneur award due to the mounting sexual assault, rape, and harassment allegations against him.
While this is certainly an important and momentous move by the French government, it isn’t the only gesture of goodwill toward women it has made in recent days. According to BBC, France could also soon enact on-the-spot fines for “catcalling and lecherous behavior in public.”
"It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law," Marlene Schiappa, France’s new secretary for gender equality and the woman behind the proposed law, told RTL radio on Monday. "We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street."
According to The Local, a cross-party task force made up of five members of parliament will work with French police and local magistrates to come up with what defines harassment and how fines and appropriate punishments can be enforced by officers in the street. According to the Times of London, men could also face fines for following women and repeatedly asking for their number.
"The level of the fine is part of our discussions," Schiappa told RTL. She noted that local police would be following up on complaints brought by women. In an additional statement, Schiappa noted to the The Guardian, “Twenty euros would be a bit humiliating, €5,000 would be more of a deterrent. At the moment, many men are saying, ‘It’s not a big deal, we’re only having fun.’ And we say, ‘No.’”
While the law has the support of many in French politics, it appears it may have an uphill battle with some. As BBC reported, Bruno Le Maire, the country's economy minister, told reporters he’d never publicly denounce a politician he knew was guilty of harassment. He later apologized on Twitter saying, "It goes without saying that if I were aware of a case of sexual harassment against a woman, I would be the first to report it."
Of course, France isn’t the only country to take steps to ensure women’s safety in public. In June Madrid enacted its own law banning “manspreading” on public transportation, while New York City enacted a similar ban in 2014.