Men who wolf whistle or are aggressively lecherous towards women on French streets face fines under a new sexism and sexual abuse law to be passed next year, the government confirmed yesterday.

Marlène Schiappa, 34, the country's gender equality minister, said workshops would be held across France to discuss the bill, as tens of thousands of French women took to Twitter to share experiences of harassment in the workplace.

President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces and would send new contingents of community police to enforce the new law, the Daily Telegraph reported.

"It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law," Schiappa told RTL radio.

Advertisement

Her comments came amid heated debate in France over what constitutes harassment, prompted by alleged sexual assaults on a string of actresses by Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood film producer.

French women flooded Twitter at the weekend to recount their experiences of being sexually harassed at work.

Read more
Every woman knows a Harvey Weinstein
Anna Paquin among thousands who respond 'me too'

Some 86,000 posted comments under the hashtag #balancetonporc or "squeal on your pig", launched by Sandra Muller, a French journalist, who recounted how her former boss had commented on her breasts and promised to have sex with her "all night long".

The hashtag quickly became the number one trending hashtag in France and the third worldwide.

Police unions and some lawyers criticised the law as almost impossible to enforce as culprits would have to be caught in the act with the line between harassment and flirtation hard to draw.

But Schiappa said: "We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street."

A cross-party task force composed of five MPs has been asked to work with police and magistrates to come up with a definition of harassment that can be enforced by officers on the streets.

Advertisement

The minister said she wanted the statute of limitations in cases of alleged rapes against minors to be extended to 30 years, from the current 20 years after the victim has turned 18.

Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces. Photo / AP
Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to tackle sexist male attitudes in public spaces. Photo / AP

The proposal was partially derived from recommendations by a working group overseen by Flavie Flament, a TV host who last year accused David Hamilton, the controversial late British photographer, of raping her when she was 13.

Flament could not file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired in her case.

Hamilton denied the claims and committed suicide in the wake of the revelations.

Last month, there was outrage in France after prosecutors decided to charge a 28-year-old man who had sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old girl with sexual abuse of a minor, instead of rape, because she had followed him without being threatened physically.

Macron said this weekend that he wanted to revoke Weinstein's Legion of Honor award after the wave of accusations of sexual abuse against the Hollywood mogul.

He said he had "started the procedures" for such a removal.

This article was originally on the Daily Telegraph and is republished with permission.