News / Europe

France Gets Tough New Sexual Harassment Law

An activist holds a sign as she attends a demonstration a day after the French Constitutional Council decided the immediate repeal of the law on sexual harassment, in Paris, May 5, 2012.
An activist holds a sign as she attends a demonstration a day after the French Constitutional Council decided the immediate repeal of the law on sexual harassment, in Paris, May 5, 2012.
Lisa Bryant
PARIS — As old sexual scandals implicating former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn continue to haunt his native France, French lawmakers have approved a tough new sexual harassment law.  

French government figures offer cause for alarm. Out of hundreds of sexual harassment complaints filed in France every year, only about 80 resulted in sentences under France's old sexual harassment law.

In May, the country's Constitutional Court tossed out that law on grounds that it was too vague. Two months later, both France's Senate and National Assembly have passed a replacement that will make sexual harassment a criminal offense.

Culprits face prison sentences of up to two or three years and hefty fines, penalties that are essentially double those under the old law. Potentially offensive behavior can include sexual jokes, neck massages and leaving pornographic material on office desks.

A number of groups have praised the new legislation. But Mary Heloise, a jurist at the women's rights group Ni Putes Ni Soumises - French for "neither prostitutes nor doormats" - says it does not go far enough.

Heloise says the toughest penalties are only for extreme cases. Generally, she claims, people who steal mobile phones face harsher penalties than sexual harassment offenders.

Critics say France is fertile territory when it comes to sexual harassment.

Consider the reaction by male lawmakers earlier this month when Housing Minister Cecile Duflot addressed them wearing a blue and white flowered dress. The hooting and catcalls have since sparked plenty of debate about machoism in French society, including in the parliament which is dominated by men.

Jurist Heloise says it clearly shows the lawmakers need to curb behavior that is clearly sexist.

The new legislation is unrelated to the sex scandals dogging former French IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But they have sparked much soul searching in France about sexual harassment in the workplace and, some say, a new awakening to women's rights in France.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs