An overnight parliamentary session in Paris has green-lighted a bill that would criminalize catcalls and wolf whistles, regardless of the genders of the people involved. The bill was passed by the French National Assembly and will go to the senate for consideration.
If the bill makes it through the senate, those caught engaging in “aggressively lecherous street harassment” will be fined on the spot; fines will range from €90 to €750 ($105 to $877). What constitutes harassment is loosely defined in the bill as any behavior that “infringes the freedom of movement of women in public spaces and undermines self-esteem and the right to security.”
Marlene Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, said that the bill’s intent is to target repeat offenders. “We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street … For instance, it’s following a woman through several blocks or asking for her phone number 15 straight times.”
The move to criminalize such behavior began with a social media campaign, #balancetonporc (“expose your pig”), which inspired women to fight back by publicly shaming the men who harassed them on the street.
Over 100 women who opposed the bill — including a number of doctors, artists, and sex experts — signed off on a letter earlier this year that was published by Le Monde.
“Rape is a crime,” the women wrote. “Insistently or awkwardly hitting on someone is not.” The signatories also defended “a freedom to importune, which is indispensable to sexual freedom.”
French President Emmanuel Macron appears to support the bill, saying that it is meant to ensure that “women are not afraid to be outside.”