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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

‘Squeal on the pigs’: French women bombard Twitter with tales of sexual harassment

French women flooded Twitter at the weekend to recount their experiences of being sexually harassed at work. They posted their accounts under the hashtag #balancetonporc or “squeal on your pig”, with some naming and shaming the accused.

'Squeal on the pigs': French women bombard Twitter with tales of sexual harassment
"Zone without harassment": Woman takes part in protest against sexual harassment in Paris. Photo: AF

The hashtag was launched by Sandra Muller, a French journalist, who called on women to use social media to “squeal on your pig” by posting their experiences of being sexually harassed.

“You too should give the names and the details of any sexual harassment at work. I am waiting…” tweeted Muller who set the ball rolling by telling how her former boss had commented on her breasts and promised to have sex with her “all night long”.

Her hashtag quickly became the number one trending hashtag in France and third worldwide.

“I am counting on you to break the omerta,” said a delighted Muller.

Many other women soon joined in, eager to speak out in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Giulia Fois, a radio journalist shared her own experience.

“An editor-in-chief, major radio station, small hallway, grabbing me by the throat, ‘one day I’m going to have sex with you, whether you want it or not,'” she tweeted.

The journalist said she had complained at the time but had been “neither believed nor heard”.

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The world of journalism appeared to be rife with sexual harassment judging by the number of tweets from female members of the profession.

Many were from women who had been harassed by their bosses when they were interns.

Some women chose to name and shame the men who had allegedly harassed them, including one former presidential candidate.

But the problem also appeared to deep rooted among university teaching with one victim saying her lecturer offered study classes in exchange for nude photos.

Marion Georgel, spokeswoman for French women’s rights group Osez le Feminisme heralded the reaction on Twitter.

“It is really positive to get them to speak out on this difficult topic of sexual or mora harassment,” she told 20 minutes.

“Especially because the person who launched the hashtag is speaking of harassment in a professional setting, where it is even more complicated to talk about for fear of losing their jobs.”

But Osez le Feminisme warns that women must go further than just tweeting about their experiences.

“For all the men who are not high profile like Harvey Weinstein, the responsibility falls on them first,” said the group’s spokesperson.

“They have to realize that women no longer want to be silent about this kind of action. Perhaps they will feel less confident to act in that way…. But if the denunciations stay on Twitter it will not change much.”

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment

An app to help protect women against sexual harassment in the streets is now being rolled out across France after a successful trial in Marseille.

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment
Photo: AFP

The Garde Ton Corps (protect your body) app was developed by yoga teacher Pauline Vanderquand in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence after she and her friends experienced harassment and assaults on the streets.

She told French newspaper Le Parisien: “It all started with a personal story. I was followed in the street, I asked for help at an institution and they wouldn't let me in. A little later, a friend was assaulted. I got really fed up, the next day I started the app project, too many stories of harassment were coming back to me.”

After help from the police and mairie (town hall) in Aix she then expanded the app to Marseille, where 20,000 people downloaded it in in the week of its launch in March.

Lockdown then delayed her plans, but the app is now available across France to download on Android, and will be available for iPhones later in August.

READ ALSO The 8 smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

 

The app has several functions.

The first 'I'm going home' allows users to transmit the geolocation of your route home to trusted people in your contacts book, using the phone's location services.

The second 'help me' is for use in an emergency situation, if there is a problem a pre-loaded alert message is sent via test-message to selected contacts in your address book, giving your location and the amount of battery left on your phone.

For those in selected locations there is also the 'safe places' option, which gives a list of establishments, usually bars, that have partnered with the app offering themselves as a safe space where women can go if they are being followed or harassed in the street.

Pauline has already partnered with several establishments in Aix and Marseille and is now working on getting Paris bars signed up to the app, helped her by ambassador in the area Anita Mas.

Bars or other establishments register themselves with the app as a 'safe space' and users can then find the nearest safe space to them in case of problems.

The app is free to download but bars and other partners pay a fee to register themselves, which goes towards helping the development of the app.

Amokrane Messous, manager of the Le Mondial bar in the 10th arrondissement, is one of those who has signed up.

He said: “The concept is interesting because in this neighborhood, after a certain time, there are security problems. Some people may feel uncomfortable. For women, it's a real plus to know that they can find a safe place.”

READ ALSO Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?

 

Street harassment is a long-standing problem in France, with public transport a particular problem.

A study in 2017 showed that at least 267,000 people, mostly women, were sexually abused on public transport in France over a two-year period.

In 2018 France brought it a new law that punishes sexual harassment in public spaces.

The new law allows for on-the-spot fines for behaviour including comments on a woman's looks or clothing, catcalling, intrusive questions, unwanted following and “upskirting” – taking pictures under a woman's dress without her knowing. 
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