France finds innovative way to curb sexual violence

France finds innovative way to curb sexual violence

PARIS - France announced a series of measures against sexual violence on Wednesday, including on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment on the street and extended deadlines for filing rape complaints.

President Emmanuel Macron has said the bill is meant to ensure “women are not afraid to be outside”, after a wave of sexual assault allegations leveled against men in the public eye around the world triggered a protest movement online.

Under the legislation, which still needs to be approved by parliament, under-age victims of rape will have until they are aged 48 to file a complaint, taking the deadline to 30 years after they turn 18, from 20 now.

The law will also set an age - 15 - under which one will be presumed not to have agreed to having sex with someone aged 18 or more. This age of consent will facilitate rape prosecutions, Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said.

Together with the age of consent, one of the most eye-catching aspects of the bill, whose main points have been publicly debated over the past few months, has been the plan to punish sexual harassment on the street with fines.

Schiappa said the fines, to be paid on the spot by offenders, would range from 90 euros to 750 euros. They could reach 1,500 euros in the case of aggravating circumstances and 3,000 euros for repeat offenders.

“It is crucial that the laws of the republic make it clear that it is not allowed to harass or intimidate women ... whether in the public space, on public transport or online,” Schiappa told a news conference. “There can be no lawless zones.”

The law has wide popular backing, an Ifop opinion poll showed. AGENCIES