Postcards are displayed under The Eiffel Tower in Paris on August 2, 2018. - The Eiffel Tower was turning away tourists for a second day as workers pressed a strike over a new access policy which they say is causing unacceptably long wait times for visitors. The monument has been closed since August 1, as unions locked horns with management over a decision to assign separate elevators to visitors with pre-booked tickets and those who buy them on site. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

France Approves Huge Fines for Catcallers & Other Street Harassers

Vive la France.
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France has made a major step in trying to deal with harassment by passing legislation to attack sexual violence in the country. Among the most notable, according to reporting by NPR, was instituting a fine of 750 Euros (around $870) to street harassers.

While that fine is getting most of the attention, also included are provisions put in place to protect minors from things like “upskirting,” a practice of taking pictures of people under their clothing without them knowing, now punishable with massive fines and potential prison time. Also, the government is making it easier for alleged underage rape victims to prove they were assaulted and didn’t consent to sex, as well as extending the statute of limitations to file their complaints by a decade, which makes sense considering younger victims take longer to come forward.

The current government of France, led by President Emmanuel Macron, has been supportive of these changes to protect women and men, but as NPR reports, a woman in Paris called out a man for catcalling another woman only to get an ashtray thrown at her.

The woman, Marie Laguerre, told a French broadcaster that this was not the first time that day, that week, or that month that she had been catcalled. “It had been building up. I got angry and said ‘shut up.’ I didn’t think he’d hear, but he did,” and his response was violence. Not only did he fling the ashtray, but he then went back in her direction to confront her and hit her in the face.

Laguerre said she walked on to file a complaint with law enforcement. “He’s not the only one. The harassment is daily,” Laguerre said in her Facebook post. “It’s time for this kind of behavior to stop.” Laguerre put the video from the cafe on YouTube, and it got more than 5.6 million views in a week, and she also launched a website—Nous Toutes Harcelement, or “We Are All Harassed”—to collect more accounts like her own.

When people ask why women make “such a big deal” out of catcalling, this is why—the fear that it can turn from verbal to physical at the drop of a hat. In being told, “Shut up,” this man reacted with physical violence twice, instead of just walking away. Plus, it took him actually slapping this woman for anyone to really take notice of the fact that this man was a problem. Also, no one checked on Laguerre after the assault or made a move to call the police on the man who did it.

Still, having a government that actually invests in protecting women makes a difference, as Marlène Schiappa, France’s secretary for gender equality, has been the primary force behind Wednesday’s legislation. “Harassment in the street has previously not been punished. From now on, it will be,” she told Europe 1 radio on Thursday. “What’s key is … that the laws of the French republic forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening and following women in public spaces.”

The law passed the Senate without a single “no” vote, and apparently, those lawmakers who abstained did so because “they believed it did not go far enough,” according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Of course, there are those who still think this type of legislation will not make a difference, like radio host Jean-Jacques Bourdin: “This kind of measure doesn’t work anywhere, not in Portugal, Finland, or Belgium, where they’re trying it.”

There are naturally a lot of questions about how this catcalling law will be enforced, and just passing these laws will not erase internalized sexism or entitlement towards women’s bodies, but it does ask for accountability from these men when they do it, which is a step in the right direction. But we shouldn’t start celebrating until we see that lawyers and courts actually uphold these cases when brought before them.

(via, image: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.