France’s parliament recently unanimously approved legislation criminalising sexual harassment, nearly three months after the country’s highest constitutional body struck down a previous law on the grounds that it was too vague. The French parliament unanimously adopted new legislation, making sexual harassment a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in jail to replace a law that was deemed too vague.
The new law, which also provides for a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($55,000), was rushed through both houses of parliament to appease public anger as the repeal of the original legislation in May saw all suits going through the courts being dropped.
“Victims can once again seek justice and will be better armed since the (terms) of the crime is better defined and covers a wider spectrum and the penalties are more proportionate to the seriousness of the offence,” said Justice Minister Christine Taubira.
“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 was put in the spotlight after 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 demanding a change in the law.
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 — fear of transgender people or transsexuals.
The law will also come into force in France’s overseas territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.