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Law Sexual harassment France

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France confirms €90 fine for public cat-calling, harassment

French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlène Schiappa Bertrand Guay/AFP

Sexual harassment on French streets or in public transport will be punished by a new on-the-spot fine of €90. However, the French governement spokesperson admitted it would be hard to catch offenders in the act.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux confirmed that the fines for street harassment would start at €90, in line with a parliamentary report recommending a penalty of between €90 and €750 euros, depending on how fast the offender pays up.

Speaking to BFMTV network, Griveaux pointed to a 2016 survey in which 87 percent of female public transport users said they had suffered harassment such as wolf whistling, comments on their appearance, insistent stares or someone pressing up against them.

Only two percent had filed a police complaint, even though in 86 percent of cases a witness was present.

"We have to put a stop to that," Griveaux said.

President Emmanuel Macron has made tackling sexism and predatory behaviour a core priority.

On Monday, the government confirmed plans to set a minimum age of sexual consent of 15, after a public outcry over a man who was acquitted of rape for sex with an 11-year-old girl to which a court found she had consented.

Later this month it will unveil the bill criminalising sexist remarks or gestures in public places.

The Paris metro has already begun regularly informing riders of round-the-clock emergency numbers to call or text to report incidents.

Griveaux admitted it would be difficult for the police to catch harassers red-handed. "But it's better than nothing," he said.

Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa has said she expects the "symbolic value" alone of the new law to have a dissuasive effect.

Belgium and Portugal are among the other European countries to have introduced penalties for verbal sexual abuse, with mixed results.

In Belgium, offenders risk up to a year in jail.

Griveaux said France would attempt to learn from others "what works and what doesn't".