France is considering legislation that would make it illegal for men to harass women on the street. France’s under-secretary for gender equality, Marlene Schiappa, has said that she wants to introduce legislation that will prosecute men for street harassment.

According to a national survey, almost every woman in France has faced public harassment. Now Schiappa has directed five MPs to look at appropriate measures and punishments.

Schiappa grew up in Paris where she found that walking on streets was a huge challenge for women. The 34-year-old is determined to solve the problem.

Facing Backlash

Schiappa’s move has caused some backlash, with politicians saying that it is too extreme and that it should be prosecuted when police officers actually witness an offence.

Describing the kind of behaviour which could qualify as street harassment, she said,You are a woman in an underground train. I am a man. I follow you. You get off the train. I get off. You get on another train. I get on too. I ask you for your telephone number. I ask again. I ask a third time. You feel oppressed. That is street harassment.” 

French President Emmanuel Macron also called for an end to the harassment of women during his election campaign. Countries like Belgium and Portugal already have laws in place to ban such behaviour

So should we have such a law in India?

“It is already illegal in India,” Neha Singh, founder of the Why Loiter movement in India, tells SheThePeople.TV. “Even staring is part of sexual harassment. Stalking, cat-calling is part of sexual harassment which is already illegal in India,” she adds.

We need to be more aware of our laws. Most women do not know that these laws are in place, and do not take action when they are harassed.

Tara Kaushal, author of Why Indian Men Rape, says: “I think that street harassment should definitely be made an offence in India (and let’s criminalise marital rape and decriminalise homosexuality while we’re at it)! But, since it has been noted that the state has little effect on cultural mores in the country, the challenge will be to explain and enforce the definition of ‘street harassment’ on the public and law enforcers on the ground. Where ‘stalking’ is perpetuated as romantic in pop culture; where women are objectified and diminished; where men feel entitled over and to them, this is going to be a tall order.”

Also Read: Do We Need A Gender Equality Ministry Like France?

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