A new draft proposal, to be presented to the French government in a matter of days, calls for fining men who whistle at women, make audible comments about their appearance, or even ask for their phone numbers, according to the Ouest-France newspaper. The report was prepared by a parliamentary working group initiated by Marlene Schiappa, France’s Secretary of State for Equality, and is intended to combat “sexual contempt.” The document, which has not yet been made public, will soon be presented to Schiappa, Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet, and Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb.
Schiappa first called for legislation last October, stating that “street harassment” should be a punishable offense. Those pushing the proposal believe that men should face a minimum fine of 90 Euros, or about $112 (U.S.), if they pay on the spot. If the fine payment is delayed, it could eventually reach a maximum of €350, the equivalent of $435.
Ms. Schiappa, a 34-year-old feminist, is said to be working closely with French President Emmanuel Macron, who believes harassment could be reduced if there is an immediate response when it occurs. Yet, none of the reports I’ve read specifically address how all this egregious male behavior will be immediately responded to. Do authorities expect these brazen heterosexual louts to hang around until a gendarme shows up and issues them a ticket after they’ve been called out by a femme? Will this law, if enacted, be equally applied to Muslim males? If so, the Fifth Republic will be awash in cash.
As you might expect, I foresee some gray areas in this potential law. What if, for example, a guy says to a woman, “I love your dress…it would look great on my boyfriend!” Is this punishable in any way? I mean, he did compliment her in a sense, but not physically. He complimented her (fabulous!) fashion sense, but wasn’t trying to pick her up. Is that harassment?
And what if a guy only asks a girl for her area code, not her full phone number? Would he be subject to a smaller fine?