French government works with app and supermarket to create ‘safe spaces’ for women

The best long-term way for women to avoid being harassed on France’s streets is for men to stop harassing them - that doesn't seem to be happening, though, so the Interior Ministry has teamed up with an app and a supermarket chain to create 'safe spaces'.

French government works with app and supermarket to create 'safe spaces' for women
"Stop street harassment" is an apparently simple message, but it is not getting through (Photo by Clement Mahoudeau / AFP)

France’s Interior Ministry has announced a collaboration with the street safety app Umay and retail chain Monoprix to highlight and locate ‘safe places’ for women in towns and cities across the country.

According to an Ipsos survey, 81 percent of women in France have been victims of sexual harassment in a public space.

The smartphone Umay app features an alert button in case of harassment, and safe places are identified on a street map of the local area. All police stations and gendarmerie brigades will be listed as safe places on the map, as will all Monoprix and Monop’ stores.

Police and other agencies will be able to cross-reference reports made via the app with their own data, using it to help protect women in the street more effectively, after figures showed just two percent of women filed complaints for sexual harassment in the street.

The Ministry will help the Monoprix group, so that any victim of on-street harassment who takes refuge in one of its stores will be properly and suitably cared for.

“This mobilisation for women’s safety is a revolution,” said citizenship minister Marlène Schiappa. “We want every woman to be able to take refuge in a safe place wherever she is in France.”

And she called on other private businesses to follow the lead of the Monoprix group, saying: “We will offer tools to the Monoprix group, which is committed to us, and we are encouraging other private sector players to join the initiative.”

Jean Paul Mochet, President of the Monoprix group, said: “The Monoprix group is particularly proud to work hand in hand with the Umay application and the Ministry of the Interior by putting its network of stores at the service of safer streets in the 250 cities where we are established.” 

President Emmanuel Macron last month said he wanted to see fixed fines for on-street sexual harassment increase to €300. Street harassment has been punishable since the summer of 2018 with a fine of €90, and up to €1,500 if the victim is under 15 years old.

Since the loi Schiappa on sexist and sexual violence came into effect, about 3,500 fines for sexist insults have been imposed in total, according to latest figures.

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French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.