France has long battled sexism in society, and the decision to aggressively combat sexual harassment seems to now rest in the hands of President Emmanuel Macron. Macron has been publicly fighting gender inequality and sexism during his term as President.
On November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, President Macron spoke at a government-sponsored panel in Paris. He announced that promoting gender equality and combating violence against women will be top priorities of the government, and he laid out the measures that would be taken to follow through with this promise.
The different proposals included fining men for aggressive catcalling or other lewd behavior toward women in public, creating a new age ceiling under which minors cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship, extending the statute of limitations from 20 years to 30 years in cases of sexual assault of minors, and developing more policies that protect sexual assault victims and make it easier for them to press charges against their perpetrators.
“France must no longer be one of those countries where women are afraid,” President Macron said. “Under [perpetrator’s] blows, under their abuse, a woman dies every three days in France.” He also called French society “sick with sexism,” and that it was “essential the shame change sides.” He then asked for a moment of silence for the 123 women lost in 2016.
Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, said that the government is still determining how to define street harassment and how much to fine. The government will consult legal professionals on its proposals and hold workshops for citizens across the country. These changes should be implemented before Parliament next year.
In the past, President Macron has been criticized for his nonexistent or inadequate responses to women’s cries for help. Prominent French feminist Caroline De Haas even started a petition asking him to declare sexual violence a national emergency, which has gained over 129,900 signatures. The most talked-about concern is that the government has not committed enough funds to the cause.
The feminist association Osez le Féminisme said in a statement that “without financing, any plan to communicate, to train, to raise awareness or to support victims will be in vain.” De Haas said on Twitter that Mr. Macron “hasn’t understood what is going on in the country,” and described his plans as a “scattering of measures, some of which address our demands, but without any financial means of enforcing them.”
Macron won the presidential election in only May of this year, and he has said on multiple occasions that promoting gender equality and combating violence against women is the national cause for his five-year mandate.
“Let’s seal a pact of equality between men and women,” Macron said. Regardless of criticism, it is still important that he is making gender equality a top priority in France.
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