France to fine men up to €750 for wolf-whistling

President Emmanuel Macron says law is intended to ensure 'women are not afraid to be outside'

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 17 May 2018 18:55 BST
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Marlene Schiappa, France's minister for gender equality, is heading the campaign against sexual harassment
Marlene Schiappa, France's minister for gender equality, is heading the campaign against sexual harassment (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

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Men will be fined for wolf-whistling or making sexual comments towards women in France, as part of new tougher legislation to combat lecherous behaviour.

Those who break the law will face on-the-spot fines of up to €750 (£655).

France's president, Emmanuel Macron, said the law was meant to ensure "women are not afraid to be outside."

The country's minister for gender equality, Marlene Schiappa, was previously asked about the difficulty of drawing a line between harassment and flirtation.

She said: "We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street."

Ms Schiappa had previously called for a change to consent laws, so minors under 15 who have sex with adults over 18 would be presumed not to have given their consent.

However, France's lower parliament stopped short of setting a legal age of sexual consent and instead approved a clause in which relations between an adult and a minor under 15 could be classified as rape if "the victim lacks the ability to consent".

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In such cases, it would be classified a "sexual assault" and the maximum prison sentence for that is doubled to 10 years. Rape of children under 15 is punishable by 20 years in prison.

The legislation will also give underage victims of rape an additional 10 years to file complaints, up from 20 years after they turn 18 to 30 years.

Women's rights groups, who pushed for a firm age limit, reacted angrily to the vote.

They fear the new law will tend to encourage judges to classify abuses as sexual assaults rather than rapes.

France's justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, told Europe 1 radio she disagrees with critics. "We tighten the rules so that the rape can be more easily proven," she insisted.

The bill will now to go to the Senate for approval.

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