Street sex pests facing €90 on-the-spot fines
The first on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment in the street can now be given out as a new law on sexual violence comes into force to target sex pests, upskirting and child rape.
Called the Loi Schiappa, the Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa said it marked a major social change in France.
The final MPs’ vote came after video was released of a woman being violently punched in a Paris street for rebuking a man who had harassed her.
Marie Laguerre was attacked in broad daylight as she passed a Paris café and said it was “not the first time that day, that week or that month” that she had been abused – but the first time it had been caught on video with witnesses.
She said that police would not believe a woman’s account of being harrassed without proof – but despite the video being widely viewed, the man has not yet been caught.
Paris prosecutor François Molins said he was shocked by the rise in number of rape and sexual violence complaints this summer, with figures up 20% in the first five months of the year.
The law imposes on-the-spot fines for harassment on public transport or on the street with pests facing fines of €90-€750 and €3,000 for repeat offences.
It targets sexual or sexist behaviour. Ms Schiappa has previously said she did not want to end flirting but to use French law to “forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening and following women in public spaces”.
Anyone filming up a woman’s dress or ‘upskirting’ will face a heavier penalty for a délit (stronger than a contravention) with up to a year in prison and a €15,000 fine.
Ms Schiappa said that the new crime closed a legal loophole as there was no previous offence.
The law was welcomed by France’s largest women’s rights group CNIDFF with director general Annie Guilberteau calling it an “advance for women’s rights, giving the same freedom to enjoy public areas as men”.
A €4million publicity campaign is being launched to mark the law with a special effort in areas which Ms Schiappa said needed “Republican reconquest” such as near stations in Paris and elsewhere in France.
There has been anger though that the law does not set a legal age of consent despite many groups including CNIDFF calling for tougher action against child rape – but it does make it easier for an adult to be charged over sex with a child under 15.
If there is an abuse of vulnerability, threat or surprise it is classed as rape with a 20-year prison term.
Prosecutors will file charges of ‘sexual infraction’ alongside rape in case the higher charge is not accepted. Sexual activity with a minor can mean seven years in jail and a €100,000 fine.
The time delay for reporting child rape was extended in the law with the statute of limitations being raised to 30 years from the victim’s 18th birthday.