French lawmakers gave final passage Wednesday to a bill that expands the criminal definition of child rape and outlaws sex harassment on the street, measures the government described as a signal of deep social change.
The legislation approved in the lower house of the French parliament classifies relations between an adult and a child under age 15 as rape resulting from an “abuse of vulnerability,” if the victim lacked the ability to consent. It would be up to a judge to determine whether or not a child was capable of giving sexual consent.
The revision followed recent cases that provoked public outrage. In both cases, French courts ruled men who had sex with 11-year-old girls could not be prosecuted for rape because authorities could not prove there was coercion.
The bill also extends the statute of limitations for sex crimes, allowing prosecution for 30 years instead of 20 after a purported victim turns 18 years old.
The new law also allows for fines of 90-750 euros ($105-$876) for gender-based harassment on streets and public transportation. It bans sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating hostile or offensive.
Junior minister for gender equality Marlene Schiappa said she is convinced the measure will act as a “deterrent.”
A video of a man striking a woman after she responded to obscene sounds he made as she passed by him in Paris went viral in France this week. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation, but the man seen in the CCTV video has not been arrested.
The bill also steps up sanctions for cyberstalking and outlaws taking pictures or videos under someone’s clothes without consent. The practice, known as “upskirting,” will be punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros ($17,533.)
President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed for the changes in the legislation in the wake of the #MeToo movement and said they would take effect in September.