France Uses Fines to Fight Sexual Harassment

by By Susan Shand  2018-03-25 00:00:00

The government of France announced new measures against sexual wrongdoing Wednesday, including fines for sexual harassment. It also extended the time limit for rape accusations.

President Emmanuel Macron has said the bill is designed to make sure "women are not afraid to be outside."

Last year, a series of sexual abuse accusations made against powerful men led to an online movement against sexual wrongdoing.

In the proposed French legislation, adult rape victims can take legal action anytime within 30 years of the wrongdoing. If the victim is under age 18, they can start legal action until they are 48 years old.

The limit currently is 30 years for those aged 20 and above.

FILE - Demonstrators hold placards readingFILE - Demonstrators hold placards reading"Harassed it is no", "In France a rape every 8 minutes" and "Together let us break the silence", during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

The measure would also set 15 as the age of consent to have sex with someone 18 years or older.

The punishment of fines for public sexual harassment is one of the proposal's more unusual ideas.

Marlène Schiappa said police could order offenders to immediate payment of fines. The fines would extend from about $110 up to around $920. Fines could go as high as $3,700 for repeat offenders.

Schiappa told reporters that it was important French laws make clear that sexual harassment and threatening behavior will not be accepted. She added that there are no "lawless" areas in France.

An opinion study released Wednesday showed that about 90 percent of the French public support the proposed fines. Around the same amount support the extension of time limits for legal action. The study was done by the international market research group, IFOP.

However the new laws have critics, including one of the country's most famous actors, Catherine Deneuve. Many argue the laws will destroy the search for love and sexual relationships.

Schiappa dismissed the criticism. When speaking last year to Reuter's news agency, she said, "Some say we will kill the culture of the ‘French lover' if we punish street harassment. But it's the opposite."

She said the law will make it clear that when someone says ‘no,' the answer is final.

The bill also calls for stronger action against online harassment, Schiappa said.

I'm Susan Shand.

Reuters reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on 17VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

harassment – n. to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way

consent – n. permission for something to happen or be done

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