France Wants to Outlaw Catcalling

Sep 26, 2017

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Paris may be one of the most romantic cities in the world, but there’s a big difference between spending time in the City of Light with someone you love and being harassed on the street by a stranger. While the French accent may make it sound more alluring than your usual American catcall, it’s still a behavior that we’d all be happier to see disappear completely.

Now, it looks like France is getting ready to make that happen. As Condé Nast Traveler reports, a pending piece of legislation could make it illegal for men to follow or otherwise pester women on the street in France. It’s the brainchild of Marlène Schiappa, France’s secretary of gender equality, and if passed, it would be a groundbreaking law that might lead to other cities and countries following suit.

In an interview with NPR, Schiappa recalled how, when she was barely a teenager, she and her sister would regularly be hounded when walking pretty much anywhere in Paris — to school, the supermarket or even a friend’s house. Which is why she has stated that one of her main goals in her new position is to make sure that France’s public spaces are made safer for both girls and women, which will happen when street harassment is properly identified so police can fine men who are following or otherwise intimidating women as they go about their business.

Of course, one of the main challenges Schiappa and her colleagues are now facing is defining what exactly constitutes the kind of badgering that would make it a criminal offense. She has been clear that mutual flirting between two people is not what she’s going after, and instead gave the following example: A woman gets on a train and is followed by a man, even when she leaves and gets on another train to avoid his advances. He then asks for her phone number. Repeatedly. The woman feels unsafe and oppressed.

The move comes on the heels of the launch of We Drive, Paris’ new women-only taxi service — but France is hardly alone in its desire to make female citizens and tourists feel comfortable traversing public spaces. In 2016, misogyny — including catcalling — became a crime in Nottinghamshire, England. In India, women-only trains and rickshaws are a common sight. And if you’re looking to manspread, you’d better do it somewhere other than Madrid — the city outlawed the rude tactic on its public transport system back in June. Sounds like Schiappa is onto something.

H/T: Condé Nast Traveler

Featured image by Oscar Wong / Getty Images.

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