France may famous for romance – ooh la la and all that – but when the culture gets out of hand and a local or even an unwary traveller gets aggressively cat-called or harassed on the street, it can be very disconcerting. Sometimes, people even get hurt. Luckily, a new law that was passed on Wednesday will slap street harassers with a fine of up to EUR 750 (approx. USD 870).
“Between consenting adults everything is allowed, we can seduce, talk, but if someone says ‘no’, it’s ‘no’ and it’s final.”
“Harassment in the street has previously not been punished. From now on, it will be,” said Marlène Schiappa, French Junior Minister for Gender Equality. “What’s key is…that the laws of the French republic forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening, and following women in public spaces.”
The law comes just days after a 22-year-old Parisian woman named Marie Laguerre was hit in the face by a man after she responded to vulgarities he shot at her in passing. He even threw an ashtray at her (we know, what a douchebag, excuse our French). And this was in front of dozens of witnesses – not to mention what other people have faced in lonelier situations.
Is romance dead?
Critics argued that the new law would “kill the culture of the ‘French lover.’” To that, Marlène had the perfect response.
“But it’s the opposite,” she told Reuters in October 2017. “We want to preserve seduction, chivalry and ‘l’amour à la francaise’ by saying what is key is consent. Between consenting adults everything is allowed, we can seduce, talk, but if someone says ‘no’, it’s ‘no’ and it’s final.”
The new law also includes protections for rape victims under the age of 15, if the victim was not competent to give consent” according to Reuters. The statute of limitations for underage victims to report rape has been extended by 10 years – now, the deadline is 30 years after their 18th birthday.
What’s more, upskirting, the act of taking pictures of videos under someone’s clothes without consent, is now punishable by a fine of more up to EUR 15,000 (approx. USD 17,530). But Marie noted that outlawing street harassment on paper isn’t enough if there aren’t enough police officers patrolling the streets or if they aren’t trained to spot harassment.