France passes new law outlawing catcalling, street harassment amid viral video outrage

By @chelean on
Marie Laguerre was attacked by a catcaller in France after she told him to shut up.
Marie Laguerre was attacked by a catcaller in France after she told him to shut up. YouTube/Marie Laguerre

France has voted to ban catcalling on the streets. Days after a video about a woman being physically attacked by a catcaller became viral, lawmakers approved the bill outlawing sexual harassment on the streets on Wednesday.

The country erupted in outrage over the viral video released by Marie Laguerre on YouTube late last month. In the video, it can be seen that a man hit a woman outside a café in front of several people and just walking away from it without repercussions.

The woman in the video was Laguerre, 22, who said she was walking home from work in Paris last month when a man started to sexually verbally harassed her. When she replied “shut up” to him, he threw an ashtray at her before rushing to punch her.

“This is an unacceptable behaviour. It happens everyday, everywhere and I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a similar story,” she wrote. “I am sick of feeling unsafe waking [sic] in the street. Things need to change, and they need to change now.”

The video has over 5.7 million views since it was uploaded on July 28 on YouTube.

In response to the video, lawmakers voted to outlaw catcalling and other sexual harassments on the street on Wednesday. Individuals caught cat-calling face potential on-the-spot fines of up to 750 euros (AU$1,180).

“Harassment in the street has previously not been punished. From now on, it will be,” Equalities minister Marlene Schiappa, who is the architect of the new anti-sexual harassment law, told Europe 1 radio (via Reuters) on Thursday.

The new law also extends the statute of limitation for sex crimes, as well as expands the criminal definition of child rape. In the early draft of the bill, minors under 15 would be assumed not to have given consent to sex with an older person. The revised bill and which was approved on its second reading states that sex between an adult and a person of 15 years old or under can be considered rape if the minor was judged not competent to give consent.

The new law also gives underage rape victims 10 more years to file complaints. This extends their deadline to 30 years from when they turn 18.

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