France makes progress in the fight against sexual and sexist violence

The French Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, and the Secretary of State for equality between men and women, Marlène Schiappa, presented a draft bill to the Council of Ministers on 21st March 2018 aimed at combating sexual and sexist violence. The French government expects to vote on the law in 2018 after it has been examined in Parliament.

The draft bill, in explanatory statements, stresses four important aspects:

  1. The time limit of 20 to 30 years for crimes against freedom and sexual integrity when the victim is a minor. The time limit starts when the victim is no longer a minor. The aim is for the victim to have more time to lodge a complaint and facilitate the repression of such crimes, especially when they take place within the family environment.
  2. Reinforce legal remedies which allow for the punishment of rape and sexual assault of victims under the age of 15 (applicable age of consent to have sexual relations) to improve its protection. Sexual relationships with minors may result in abuse of a victim without the necessary level of maturity or ability to discern in order to give consent (article 2 of the draft bill). In this case, if there is penetration it is typified as rape and punished with 20 years’ reclusion and, in other cases, it is typified as sexual assault, punished with 10 years in prison.
  3. The definition of online harassment is broadened to fill a judicial loophole and allow for the repression of group cyber assault, committed by several people who act in a coordinated manner.[1]
  4. To allow for a more explicit and effective repression of a new offence to fight against harassment in the street: the sexist offence. A minimum fine of 90 euros is expected; if there are aggravating circumstances, the fine can range from 750 to 1,500 euros; if there is a recurrence, the fine can amount to 3,000 euros. Complementary measures of punishment can also be applied, like following awareness raising campaigns in terms of equality. A filed complaint from the victim is not necessary to pursue such offences.

This draft bill means a very important improvement in penal terms, as it increases the persecution of offenders in the field of crimes against freedom and sexual integrity, as well as in the case of some sexual behaviour, especially when the victims are women or minors.

Further information is available on the following sites:

[1] The French expression for this conduct is numeric raids: it means a group cyber harassment carried out in a concerted manner via social networks, by email or via forums.


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