PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday unveiled measures aimed at educating the public and schoolchildren about sexism and violence against women and improving police support for victims.
During his campaign Macron, who won the presidential election in May, promised to rethink sexual politics and gender equality, which he made a national cause for his five-year mandate.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States has accelerated a rethink of attitudes toward sexual harassment in France, a country that cherishes its self-image as the land of seduction and romance.
“Let’s seal a pact of equality between men and women,” Macron said in a speech marking the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
About violence and sexual abuse, he said: “It is essential that shame changes camp.”
During his speech, Macron observed a minute’s silence for the 123 women killed by their partner or ex-partner in 2016.
Measures announced include educating secondary school children about pornography and simplifying the system for rape and assault victims to go to the police.
Proposals that could be included in a 2018 draft law include criminalising street harassment and extending the statute of limitation for the rape of minors to 30 years from 20 years. Macron also said he was personally in favour of setting the age of sexual consent at 15. Currently France has no minimum age for sexual consent.
Planned changes to the police system include allowing victims of rape and sexual assault to make their initial complaints online, before going to a police station to bring criminal charges. Other measures include “on demand” bus stops, where women can stop a bus anywhere at night so they can get home safely.
French feminist group Osez le Féminisme said the measures were going in the right direction but must be accompanied by adequate funding.
“Without funding, any communication, training, awareness or help plan for the victims will be useless,” the statement said.
France has often debated sexual harassment over the past decade following scandals involving French politicians.
Six years ago a sex scandal forced former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund, provoking a round of soul-searching in France about sexual abuse that goes undetected in the upper echelons of power.