On the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged that 2018 will see legislative measures tackle “verbal violence towards women” in public.
Joined by comedian and actress Florence Foresti and France's equality minister Marlene Schiappa at the Elysee Palace, President Macron announced that "gender-based insults”, such as wolf-whistling, will become punishable by law under the proposed legislation.
The law, which "will give the police the right to issue a fine if there is a verbal attack on a woman", will form part of what Macron has described as a “cultural fight” for gender equality - an objective of high importance on Macron’s list of priorities as president.
President Macron asserted that it is unacceptable for France to be a country where women live in fear of “sexist violence they meet in the street".
"Many harassers practice wolf whistling and other types of verbal stigmatisation - and for a long time people reacted with indifference," he added.
"This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces […] This must be one of the priorities of the police".
President Macron endorsed the proposed legislation saying that "very often verbal aggression does not lead to women going to police stations" because of fear their claims will be deemed unimportant.
"So we must give the law enforcement authorities to act immediately, to correct, to repair and restore the dignity of the victims," said Macron.
"This,” asserted Macron, “will be the purpose of this new offence of verbal aggression".
In addition to this new offence, the French president emphasised the need for regulating Internet content and more closely supervising pornography and video games in the fight for gender equality.
In order to combat sexual harassment on social networks, Macron proposed to train teachers and school staff in these matters. He too announced to have developed a mobile application for victims of cyberstalking and cyber violence as a way of curbing the kinds of sexual harassment that take place online.
"Legislative changes will be made not only to better prevent but also to prosecute those who act on the Internet to harass," he stated.
Presently in France, the Audiovisual Superior Council (Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel) (CSA), the country’s regulator of audiovisual content, has authority over only a fraction of online videos, namely those produced by television channels.
In his address, President Macron expressed a wish to "extend the powers and the regulation of the CSA" to all online videos for "the protection of the young public".
As for online pornography, Mr Macron announced the launch of an awareness campaign for parents at the next school year to tackle stereotypes, domination and violence in pornography.
Other important legislative proposals announced by Macron include setting a minimum age of consent for engaging in sex and seeing the statute of limitation for the rape of minors extended from 20 years to 30 years.
“The proposals put forward by Macron to bring about gender equality in France are exciting. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of this,” said one woman.
About the author: Violeta Buljubasic detests pornography and anything that resembles it. Cognisant of its devastating consequences, she believes that porn and the raunch culture from which it stems are symptoms of a ubiquitous ill that has removed sex and sexuality from their original design. Moved by the work of Collective Shout, Fight the New Drug, and NCOSE, Violeta hopes to be part of the solution to this insidious problem.