alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

France Puts the U.S. to Shame with Its Proposed New Legislation Defending Women

A new bill being considered by the French parliament makes a bold move to fight sexual harassment, hitting men where it hurts the most—in their wallets.


Marlène Schiappa, the French gender equality minister (a government position dedicated to combating sexism), told the press on Wednesday that under this law, sexual harassers caught on the street would be subject to pay fines on the spot. The fines would range from 90-750 euros ($110-$920), and could be higher for repeat offenders or severe violations.

"The idea is that it is high enough to be a deterrent, but also that we could be sure the harasser can pay it immediately, so that the law can be efficient," Schiappa said.

The proposed legislation would also extend the statute of limitations for underage victims of rape by 10 years, as well as change the age of consent to 15. The push for a consent age change follows a well-publicized case in France in which a 22-year-old man was charged with rape after having sex with an 11-year-old girl. The man was acquitted last week.

Schiappa has been clear about her intention to tackle sexual harassment since she was first appointed to Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet. “It’s a huge phenomenon in France,” Schiappa told the Guardian. “It’s that moment when a man is walking behind a woman, talking to her, and the woman can do nothing, because she’s alone. She doesn’t scream for help, because she thinks, ‘It’s not that bad, I’ll walk, I’ll escape.’ Men feel it’s acceptable: they’re being ‘the French lover.’"

“France is paradoxical,” Schiappa added. “We are the country of Simone de Beauvoir, of feminist theory and philosophy. But we are also a Latin country with entrenched stereotypes.”

The U.S. could stand to learn a lot from France’s tough proposal to stem the tide of sexual harassment. Nearly 80 percent of American women say they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, a Vox poll demonstrates. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close