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26 Jan, 2018 11:14

Whistling at women & asking for phone number could cost men €350 in France

Whistling at women & asking for phone number could cost men €350 in France

Men in France could be fined €350 (US$435) if they follow women in the street, whistle at them, make loud comments about their appearance or ask for their phone numbers, according to a draft proposal to combat “sexual contempt.”

The new report will be presented to the French government in the coming days, local media report. The plans come from a parliamentary working group set up by France's secretary of state for equality, Marlene Schiappa. The politicians behind the proposal suggest that men who “violate women’s freedom of movement in public space” should face a minimum fine of €90 for those who can pay on the spot. If the fine is delayed, it could reach €350, the report says. The document will be presented to Schiappa, Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet, and Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb.

Schiappa initially called for the legislation in October 2017, saying that street harassment should be a punishable offence. The 35-year-old feminist is working closely with French President Emmanuel Macron, who once said that harassment could be combated by creating a “simpler verbalization procedure” so that “there is an immediate response” when it occurs.  

The 25-page report has yet to be made public, and it’s unclear what its authors define as being an example of “sexual contempt” towards women.  Ouest-France newspaper, which saw the report, says that following a woman, asking for her phone number and whistling at her could all be punishable, as would making loud remarks about a woman’s looks. “This all happens before insults and sexual assault, which are already punished by the Penal Code,” says Erwan Balanant, one of the authors behind the report. Balanant explains that the measures are necessary as there isn’t a police officer on every corner to stop every stalker.

READ MORE: #MeToo frenzy deprives men of ‘indispensable freedom’ to hit on women – Catherine Deneuve

According to the High Council for Equality between Women and Men, 100 percent of women claim they have been harassed on public transport at least once, with 82 percent of those questioned being younger than 17 years old.  

If approved, the proposal will be presented at parliamentary debates in the National Assembly and the Senate later this year. Before receiving the report, Schiappa indicated she favors even stronger measures, telling LCI news channel that a €90 fine is “a bit weak.” 

Critics of the measure also say it might not go far enough and may be purely symbolic. “Stalkers don’t wait for a police officer to harass a woman,” Anais Bourdet, founder of the Pay Ta Shnek Facebook group, which lists the testimonies of harassed women, told L’Obs newspaper.  

French media, however, have questioned how “sexual contempt” would be separated from flirting. MEP Elise Fajgeles, another author of the report, has been accused of vagueness by answering: “Seduction should be done in a relationship of equality and not domination.”

Earlier in January, Paris authorities announced a new measure to tackle harassment on public transport. Passengers on certain buses now have a chance to hop off at night even when the vehicle is not at a designated stop.  

While the campaign against sexual harassment continues to gather pace across the globe, numerous French celebrities have rallied against the #MeToo movement. Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot and Laetitia Casta are among those who do not consider themselves to be feminists, and say that flirting with a woman is not offensive.