28 Nov 2017

From hashtag to law -- French minister calls for fining cat callers 

This is the first  p r a c t i c a l  legal response to MeToo which recognizes the change in our meta cultural understanding of where socially acceptable behavior ends and criminal behavior begins.

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Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Source: Politico Europe
From hashtag to law -- French minister calls for fining cat callers  - NewsMavens
Marlene Sciappa at her desk, via Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Two very interesting things stand out about Politico's article on Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, and her initiative to fine French men for making unwanted advances towards women.

The first is that a global news brand reporting on European politics would choose to interview a  j u n i o r  minister and one dedicated to equality between women and men to boot, is surely a sign of the post MeToo times.

Politico's article covers not only Schiappa's proposal to make cat calling illegal, but also her background, her views on the legal age of consent and the impact of Harvey Wiestein scandal on France, her relationship to feminism and what she thinks is the biggest gender problem in France today.

All in all, this substantial piece on a second row politician indicates not only the interest mainstream media is maintaining on women's issues but also a new willingness to search for women experts that are still a minority in political reporting.

The second point of interest is the cat calling fine that Schiappa is proposing. It is the first  p r a c t i c a l  legal response to MeToo that I have found, which recognizes the change in our meta cultural understanding of where social acceptable behavior ends and criminal behavior begins.

Up till now rape and sexual violence were illegal as well as discriminatory practices in education and the work place.

But jokes? Smses? Stalking? Making women subordinates feel uncomfortable? Cat calling? These were largely within the bounds of what most European societies considered bad taste, but legal. Schiappa's fine draws a new line in the sand. 

Read on to discover the challenges of bringing it into practice and the background of this pioneering French politician. 

Quote summary for Politico's profile of Marlène Schiappa

  • "In the midst of a growing backlash against harassers, Schiappa’s initiative aims to put France on the global vanguard of anti-harassment legislation, by defining a practice that’s rarely encoded in law."
  • "Thanks to testimonies that named and shamed perpetrators, police reported a 20-percent increase in the number of complaints of harassment or assault since the (MeToo) hashtag started trending, and a 30-percent rise in such complaints to the gendarmerie."
  • "The biggest figures to be caught up by public allegations in France are Islamic scholar and Swiss national Tariq Ramadan, who’s been accused of rape; and Frédéric Haziza, an anchor on the LCP parliamentary news channel who’s been accused of groping young women at the TV station, according to a report by Buzzfeed France."
  • "Lately, Schiappa’s been in the hot seat in a debate over “écriture inclusive,” or “inclusive writing,” the practice of writing French in a way that’s gender-neutral, including by spelling out feminine variations of words via a grammatical system of suspended points."
  • "The real problem, Schiappa suggested, lays elsewhere — in worsening dynamics between boys and girls at school, notably in tough neighborhoods."
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