In July, video footage from a shocking scene recorded on CCTV in Paris went viral.
A 22-year-old student is walking close to her house when a man calls out to her in front of a cafe with outdoor seating. She briefly keeps walking, then turns around to confront him.
And then he slaps her across the face.
The student, Marie Laguerre, published the footage on her Twitter account and wrote that she was hit by the man “because I responded to his harassment.” Some restaurant patrons jumped up in response to his behavior, but the man walked away.
In the aftermath of that incident, French lawmakers passed a bill this week that bans gender-based harassment, both on the streets and on public transit, in an effort to prevent such incidents from occurring. The law also implemented a fining system: Perpetrators could pay the equivalent of $105 to around $875, depending on the case.
The bill is part of a larger government push to curb harassment, which included implementing initial $105 fines for street harassment in March.
But as Washington Post correspondent James McAuley reported this week, support for the new measures was fueled by France grappling with its own #MeToo movement over the past year, which included a social media campaign that encouraged French women to name their harassers publicly.
The law passed this week is not only about street harassment. The legislation includes new protections for rape victims under age 15 by introducing the idea of “abuse of vulnerability.”
Last year, a French court acquitted a man accused of raping an 11-year-old girl because it could not determine that she had been forced into the act or threatened with violence. Another similar incident took place in February, prompting widespread calls for changes to provisions that advocates said did not do enough to protect minors.
Under the terms of the new law, taking photos under someone's clothes without permission will also be punishable by a fine of more than $17,000. The practice is commonly referred to as “upskirting.”
But Laguerre told the Associated Press that the law is “almost a joke” and won't do enough to put an end to predatory behavior on France's streets.
“I don’t think it’s realistic because it means having police officers on every street,” she said.
Some lawmakers agreed with her: A number of left-wing politicians apparently abstained from voting in protest of what they saw as a bill that didn't go quite far enough.