447 fined in France for harassing women in the street

Paris: The French police have handed out 447 fines for harassment of women in the street since the new “outrages sexistes” legislation came into effect eight months ago.

The law, passed in August 2018, allows for on-the-spot fines of up to 750 euros (650 pounds), the Guardian reported. It covers sexist insults, degrading or humiliating comments, or hostile and offensive “sexual or sexist” behaviour towards a person in public areas, schools or workplaces.

French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said 447 fines demonstrated that the law against street harassment, which she had earlier described as a “culture battle”, was working.

“Many of you on these benches told us it would never work, that we would not be able to define offensive sexist behaviour,” Schaippa told fellow ministers in the Assemblee nationale. But the figures showed the government action was efficient and would “grow in its power”, she said.

“With this law, France has become the first country in the world to punish harassment in streets with fines,” the Minister said. The legislation was backed by 90 per cent French people, according to an Ifop poll published a year ago.

Under the law, higher fines can be slapped in “aggravating circumstances”, including harassment of passengers using public transport and if the victim is under 15 or is considered particularly vulnerable.

The legislation came into effect after a video of a woman being attacked outside a Paris cafe went viral last summer.

A court later sentenced the attacker to six months in prison and find him 2,000 euros for aggravated violence after he hurled an ashtray at 22-year-old student Marie Laguerre and then returned to punch her in the face after she remonstrated with him.