France unveils plan to tackle sexual harassment

The French public are to be reminded through an advertising campaign that sexual harassment is illegal, as the government tries to crack down on the scourge of sex pests on public transport.

France unveils plan to tackle sexual harassment
Photo: Alexandre Moreau/Flickr

Ever since a poll was published earlier this year claiming 100 per cent of the women surveyed had been victims of sexual harassment on public transport, the French government has been under pressure to deal with the issue.

Womens' rights groups have long been pleading with the government to act against a problem that France's high council on equality said was a “poorly understood phenomenon [that is] largely downplayed or trivialised”.

On Wednesday the government came up with their answer when Ministers unveiled a series of measures aimed at cracking down on harassment.

They included exploring the possibility of allowing passengers on night buses to get on and off where they want and a campaign to remind the general public that groping, verbal harassment and other forms of intimidation are punishable by law.

The measures include:

  • A campaign this autumn that will use advertising space on the transport network to remind travellers that harassment and gender-based violence are punishable by law (up to five years in prison), and to encourage witnesses to show solidarity with victims in harassment situations.  
  • A trial, to take place in Nantes that will allow passengers on night buses to stop the bus on demand rather than only being able to board and alight at bus stops.
  • Developing new digital tools to report harassment including text alerts.The emergency number 3117 will be introduced before the end of this year, which can be used to report cases of harassment, and to trigger the intervention of security staff. An app will be created that will allow for reported incidents to be geo-localized.
  • Training of transport staff and promoting gender equality within transport companies.Transport staff will attend training modules designed to improve empathy with victims.
  • Transport chiefs will work with advertising agencies to prevent adverts using sexist imagery being displayed on the transport network.
  • Women will take part in visits to train and Metro stations to identify aspects of the environment which could be improved in order to prevent sexual harassment such as better lighting, ensuring there is a human presence at the station and installing CCTV where needed.

The measures were put forward by the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, secretary of state for women's rights Pascale Boistard and transport secretary Alain Vidalies and come months after France's High Council on equality (HCEfh) raised the alarm about the issue.

In April the body penned a report urging the government to crack down on sexual harrassment on public transport, after a survey it carried out returned shocking responses from Parisian women.

The study found that a full 100 per cent of the 600 women in Seine-Saint-Denis and Essonne, two areas in the outer suburbs of Paris, said they had experienced at least some form of gender-based sexual harassment while riding the train.
“We all know that at least once in our lives, and often much more, we will have to deal with either unpleasant words about the way we are dressed, sexual assault, hands on buttocks, or hands on the breasts,” Ernestine Ronai fromthe HCEfh told “France Info”.
“Touching somebody's buttocks is sexual assault and punishable by five years in prison and a €75,000 fine,” she said.
Margaux Collet, spokeswoman for Osez Le Féminsme (Dare Feminism), said it was high time that France implemented the regulations. 
“What we need now is a real response from the government. The public are demanding it,” she told The Local.
The group noted that the report was the first to recognise the “magnitude of the phenomenon”.
“The problem is that harassment on public transport has basically been trivialised. The figures are shocking. It exists everywhere but its something young foreign women notice when they come to Paris,” Collet added.
Her group has led a “Take Back the Metro” campaign for several months to try to raise awareness of the daily harassment women have to endure on the Paris transport network.

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.