It’s every woman’s nightmare and every woman has experienced it. Catcalling has been a source of discomfort and embarrassment for many women. From having sexist remarks yelled at you in public to unwanted comments and wolf whistles, many consider catcalling another form of sexual harassment. In recent years, it’s been heavily debated whether or not those who catcall should face consequences.
Recently, France has announced that men who catcall could face fines under a new sexual-abuse law that’s planned by Marlene Schiappa, the country’s minister for gender equality. Schiappa is hoping to put an end to the harassment that most women face every day.
“In France …. every woman has experienced that situation,” the minister told CNN. “Going to work, in the subway, on the bus, between in her home and the office, she’s been followed by men, she’s been asked her number, she’s been asked to talk.”
The proposals for this plan include calls to extend the statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault from 20 to 30 years old and hopes to set a new age limit so that minors can not legally consent to a sexual relationship with adults. The French government plans on consulting legal experts and hosting workshops for citizens throughout the nation. They are hoping to present the initiative to the Parliament in 2018.
This comes after huge sexual assault scandals, such as the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It led to the #MeToo movement, where both women and men shared their experiences of sexual harassment. In France, the movement #BalanceTonPorc (#ExposeYourPig) was started by journalist Sandra Muller to expose a terrifying experience from a powerful French executive. While these hashtags have been very successful, they can only do so much. Action needs to be taken to actually stop catcalling. The former leader of the French green party, Sandrine Rousseau, has become an advocate in the fight against sexual harassment and has spoken up about these movements and the recent scandals that inspired them.
“The Weinstein revelations have had a strong echo in France because what used to be seen as naughtiness is now being considered sexual harassment,” Rousseau told the times.
This announcement has women rejoicing, whether they live in France or not. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for all women for a major country to put in place these types of laws. However, France is not the only European country to put in place laws to criminalize sexual harassment. In 2015, the Portuguese made fines up to 120 euros ($142) for verbal sexual abuse. In 2014, Belgium introduced consequences that include one year jail time for sexual remarks about someone’s gender.
With this proposal, there has to be some backlash. Many people, mainly men, have condemned the fine by claiming it is too harsh and that catcalling is not a form of sexual harassment.