Politics & Culture

Street Harassment Is Officially Illegal in France

Bravo, La France!
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Photo courtesy of Denis Meyer

On Wednesday, August 1, French lawmakers approved new legislation banning street harassment and extending the statute of limitations for filing sexual-assault reports from 20 to 30 years. This momentous event is part of a larger effort by the government to combat sexual violence in France. While street harassment has not been punishable by law in the past, the recent national and international outrage has pushed lawmakers all over the world to reconsider how they approach the issue. Following the events of the Weinstein retribution and #MeToo, France’s own #BalanceTonPorc movement swept across the nation. Translating into “Expose Your Pig” or, alternatively, control your penis, the francophone world took to social media to share their own stories of assault and aggression. The movement, that many argue was what sparked talks of this new legislation, was started by French journalist Sandra Muller who tweeted the words of a powerful executive: “You have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make you orgasm all night #BalanceTonPorc.”

According to Marlène Schiappa, France’s gender equality minister, on-the-spot fines of up to EUR 750 will be handed out for incidents of inappropriate behavior in public spaces, including insulting, intimidating, threatening and following women. This new bill also comes amid high tensions surrounding a disturbing viral video of a young woman being punched in front of a café in Paris. Marie Laguerre, the 22-year-old victim, had an ashtray flung at her after telling her catcaller to shut up, and was followed up the street where she was eventually attacked by the man. “He wasn’t the first one that day,” she explains, “and I was tired.”

“We want to preserve seduction, chivalry and l’amour à la francaise precisely by saying that what is key is consent," reassures Schiappa in response to backlash. "Between consenting adults, everything is allowed…but if someone says ‘no,’ it’s ‘no’ and it’s final,"

The first fines will be handed out in the fall.

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