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France to make ‘upskirting’ illegal in street harassment crackdown

The French government is set to make the increasingly prevalent act of "upskirting" illegal as part of a bill that aims to tackle street harassment in France.

France to make 'upskirting' illegal in street harassment crackdown
Photo: jovannig/Depositphotos

Anyone in France caught “upskirting” — the act of taking photos or filming videos up a woman's skirt without their permission — will soon face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to €15,000. 

The act, which has been on the rise due to the increasing prevalence of discreet cameras and video equipment on smartphones, is currently not illegal under French law because it does not involve physical contact with the victim and the practice, which is common on public transport, is also not currently considered an invasion of privacy. 
 
But all this is about to change.
 
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Women in Paris tell their stories of being groped, pestered and sexually harassed

Photo: Jean Francois Gornet/Flickr

The most recent version of a bill against sexual and gender-based violence has been amended to make “capturing immodest images” an offense. 

In the bill, the offense of “capturing immodest images” would be punishable by one year's imprisonment and a fine of €15,000 euros while in extreme cases offenders could face a sentence of two years and €30,000 euros.
 
The law, which also imposes stiff fines for sexual harassment on the street or in public transport, including making sexist comments, was voted through in May by France's National Assembly. 
 
The legislation was piloted by 34-year-old Equalities Minister Marlene Schiappa, a feminist and early supporter of French President Emmanuel Macron who wants to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces.
 
“It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law,” Schiappa told the French media in October. 
 
And no doubt the news will be greeted with at least some relief by women who frequently use public transport. 
 
On social networks including Twitter there's no shortage of women complaining about men taking photos or filming under their skirts. 
 
“URGENT PLEASE: a guy filmed under my skirt in a shopping center. We called the cops. Can you tell me what I can do?” wrote one Twitter user (see below). 
 
 
According to a study conducted in 2016, one in two women in France said they will choose trousers over a skirt to avoid becoming the victim of sexual harassment on public transport.
 
And a 2015 survey of women commuters around Paris revealed that 100 percent of respondents said they had been a victim of sexual harassment.

 
The practice of “upskirting” is already banned in other countries including in Canada, some US states and Belgium.
 
In the UK, a bill was also introduced to punish “upskirting” offenders by up to two years in prison in June.
 
 

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HARASSMENT

The woman behind France’s #MeToo in court accused of slander

The woman behind France's answer to the #MeToo campaign exposing abusive behaviour by men was to appear in court on Wednesday accused of slandering a media executive who she said had made lewd remarks.

The woman behind France's #MeToo in court accused of slander
US based French journalist Sandra Muller. Photo: AFP

Sandra Muller, a US-based French journalist, is being sued for defamation by senior French TV executive Eric Brion at a Paris court over a Twitter post accusing him of humiliating her with vulgar comments.

Both Muller and Brion, a media consultant and former head of TV channel Equidia, are expected to be in court when the hearing starts on Wednesday afternoon.

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Muller started a viral hashtag in French in October 2018, #balancetonporc (“expose your pig”), which called on Frenchwomen to name and shame men in an echo of the #MeToo movement that began in response to allegations that toppled movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

In her Twitter post, she told of how Brion had humiliated her, saying: “You have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make you orgasm all night.” 

The post led to an outpouring of tales of harassment and assault, which were hailed as ending a culture of permissiveness in France towards unwanted advances.

After apologising for his remarks, Brion nonetheless decided to launch legal action against her.

He is asking for €50,000 in damages, €15,000 in legal fees and the deletion of the tweet where his name is mentioned.

“This is someone who acknowledged initially unacceptable conduct, who said sorry, and then suddenly decided to go to court,” said one of Muller's lawyers, Francis Spinzer, before the start of the trial.

But Eric Brion contends that two tweets in particular sent by Muller presents him as a “sexual predator”, said his lawyer Nicolas Benoit.

“It is denunciation. At no time did he have the chance to defend himself.”

In an op-ed in Le Monde newspaper late last year, Brion admitted making “inappropriate remarks to Sandra Muller” at a cocktail party.

But he also accused Muller of “deliberately creating ambiguity about what happened” by linking it to the response to the Weinstein affair.

He complained of the severe personal and professional consequences of what he said was a “conflation of heavy-handed flirting and sexual harassment in the workplace”.

Many Frenchwomen made public their experiences of abusive behaviour by men in the wake of the #MeToo and #balancetonporc movements.

But there has also been controversy.

Last year a group of prominent French women, led by film star Catherine Deneuve, complained that the campaign against harassment had become “puritanical” and they defended the right of men to “hit on” women. 

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