New sexual harassment law for France
France’s parliament unanimously adopted new legislation on Tuesday, making sexual harassment a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison, replacing the previous law which was deemed too vague.
The new law, which also provides for a fine of up to 45,000 euros, was rushed through both houses of parliament to appease public anger, after the repeal in May of the original legislation meant that all sexual harassment suits going through the courts at the time were dropped.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said victims would now be "better armed” because the crime was better defined and covered a wider range of behaviours, and the penalties were “more proportionate to the seriousness of the offence."
Sexual harassment has a much broader definition in the new law to allow for a range of different situations, including "intimidating, hostile or offensive" incidents.
The law also covers moral harassment in the workplace and transphobia, the fear of transgender people or transsexuals.
"The contract is signed and the promise kept," said Jean-Pierre Sueur, of the ruling Socialist party's law commission, referring to a pledge by President Francois Hollande's government to put new legislation in place urgently.
The issue of harassment came under the spotlight after French presidential hopeful and ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexual assault last year.
Although the charges were later dropped, the case led to a number of women in France demanding a change in the law.
The new law will also come into force in France's overseas territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.