447 fines issued under new French harassment law
The French courts say they have issued 447 fines in the previous eight months under a new law to protect women from street harassment.
The “outrages sexistes” law was enacted last August and allows the police to enforce on-the-spot fines of up to €750.
The first fine was issued in September 2018 to a man who slapped a woman’s backside on a bus and made offensive comments.
France’s version of the #MeToo hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc (rat on your pig) was also gaining momentum at the time.
Activists recently launched the hashtag #balancetonmetro to encourage women to share their experiences of unwanted sexual experiences on the Paris Metro, modelled on #balancetonporc.
Hundreds of women told stories of being groped, threatened or attacked on the city’s transport network.
The movement was started by activist Anais Leleux, who is taking civil action against the Parisian transport operator RATP, claiming it does too little to protect female passengers.
Equality minister Marlène Schiappa said the number of “outrages sexistes” fines proved the measures were working.
“Many of you on these benches told us it would never work, that we would not be able to define offensive sexist behaviour,” she told parliamentarians. Schiappa said the deterrent would “grow in power” over time.
The minister said more needed to be done to tackle online abuse. Twitter and other platforms were not co-operative in identifying the individuals behind offensive contents, Schiappa added.
The new law allows for fines between €90 and €750 to be issued on the spot. It was decided most women would do not want to engage in a lengthy and difficult legal process.
Although long planned, the law came into effect a month after a security camera filmed a man assaulting a woman, Marie Laguerre, outside a French café (pictured).
RATP said this month it intended to contest any lawsuit. “We can’t say we’re not doing anything. RATP is strongly committed to providing ideal conditions for good travel,” the transport authority said.
“We have more than 50,000 functional cameras, 5,300 agents in stations, 1,000 security agents on the network. And all these agents are trained in the care of victims of sexual harassment as part of a module.”
A study released in early last year by Paris-based think-tank Fondation Jean Jaurès said one in eight French women had been raped at least once and 43 per cent reported being touched in a sexual manner without their consent.
A security camera shows a man assaulting a woman, Marie Laguerre, outside a French café. Picture credit: YouTube