Thursday, 21 September 2017

France to make men whistling to women, asking them for their phone numbers illegal

The French Government is considering placing a ban on catcalling in the country. To make it a criminal offence to harass someone in a public place and that includes bugging women for their phone number and wolf-whistling at a woman.

France President Emmanuel Macron pledged during his campaign to end the culture of harassment and he is following through as a legislation is being drawn up to eliminate France's macho culture.

Several recent surveys have revealed almost all French women have been harassed in the street, on public transport or elsewhere at some point.

Marlène Schiappa, France’s Gender Equality minister, spoke of a gray area in the French law outlawing sexual assault, Newsweek reports.

The law defines sexual assault as: “any sexual infringement carried out using violence, coercion, threats or surprise.”

With four other MPs, she is working out a legal definition of street harassment and deciding what penalties offenders will face.

The group is working with the interior and justice ministries to properly understand and prepare a law that would define and punish street harassment.

Details of what will be made illegal are yet to be made public, but are likely to include wolf-whistling as Miss Schiappa has previously spoken out about it. Miss Schiappa has also previously spoken about a grey area in French law between sexual assault and innocent attempts at seduction.

Schiappa, in an interview in France, described how catcalling can be street harassment. She said:
You are a woman in an underground train. I am a man. I follow you. You get off the train. I get off. You get on another train. I get on too. I ask you for your telephone number. I ask again. I ask a third time. You feel oppressed. That is street harassment.
The problem is men thinking they’re entitled to yell at a young woman, saying like, ‘Hey, you, you have a fine ass!’
Very few countries, including Belgium and Portugal, have made such behaviour a criminal offence. The UK has laws against harassment in general, while different states in the US have different rules, including a £185 fine in New York for street harassment, while in Minnesota verbal harassment is illegal.

But some lawyers in France believe the offence will be difficult to prove. They believe men should only be prosecuted when police officers witness an offence. Others say women should be able to file criminal lawsuits against men at a later date.

Lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel hit out at Miss Schiappa, saying she was trying to outlaw "heavy Latin chat-up lines". He said making street harassment illegal would only enrich feminist lawyers and clog up the court system.

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