Men who harass women on French streets with wolf-whistles or lecherous behaviour could be fined more than £300 under a new law against “sexual or sexist affront” aimed at France’s macho culture.
The plans were set out by a parliamentary working group on Wednesday amid rising concern about sexual harassment and assaults following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The government is expected to incorporate the recommendation in a new law to be passed within months .
It comes as film stars attending the French equivalent of the Oscars, the Césars, on Friday are to wear white ribbons in protest at violence against women.
Wolf-whistling, making obscene or insulting remarks or pestering women for their phone number would be penalised under the plans.
The cross-party group was commissioned by Marlène Schiappa, the gender equality minister, to define harassment and examine how police could enforce a new law against it.
After five months of deliberations, it is advising the government to broaden the scope of the new criminal offence to cover a range of behaviour causing an “intimidating, hostile or offensive situation” or “injurious to the dignity of others because of their gender or sexual orientation”. Fines would range from €90 to €350 (£79 to £308).
A bill to be submitted by Ms Schiappa to cabinet next month will also set a minimum age of consent for having sex. Under current French law, only children under five are automatically regarded as non-consenting. Recent cases have caused outrage because men who had sex with pre-teen girls were not charged with rape but with the lesser offence of sexual abuse of a minor.
In one particularly high-profile case, that of a 29-year-old man accused of having sex with an 11-year-old girl, prosecutors this week altered the charge to rape, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years rather than five for sexual abuse.
The bill will also call for the statute of limitations for accusations of underage rape to be extended to allow prosecutions during a 30-year period after the victim turns 18 instead of the current 20 years.
The issue was highlighted in 2016 when Flavie Flament, a French TV presenter, accused the late British photographer David Hamilton of raping her when she was 13. Mr Hamilton, who denied the allegation, could not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. He committed suicide after the claim emerged in media reports.