France fights sex­ual vi­o­lence on pub­lic trans­port

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: France launched an aware­ness cam­paign yes­ter­day in a bid to halt the crude com­ments, grop­ing and sex­ual vi­o­lence that women face daily on pub­lic trans­port. Posters went up at sta­tions around the coun­try with fic­ti­tious metro stops la­beled with com­ments such as: “Hello Mademoiselle. You’re lovely. Let’s get to know each other. Is that short skirt for me?” The re­marks get in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive from “You’re hot, you’re turn­ing me on. An­swer me dirty bitch” to “Stop - that is enough”.

The sce­nario is one of sev­eral on posters at bus, train and metro sta­tions that the gov­ern­ment hopes will raise aware­ness about sex­ual ha­rass­ment, a global prob­lem which has prompted sim­i­lar cam­paigns in ma­jor ci­ties from New York to Lon­don. “A woman’s daily life should not look like this,” reads a line at the bot­tom of the poster. Women are ad­vised how to re­act, such as urg­ing fel­low pas­sen­gers to look up from their smart­phones and step in, to re­mind­ing their ag­gres­sor that touch­ing them in an in­ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner can land them in pri­son from six months to five years.

“The aim is to give ev­ery­one the tools to re­act. To change be­hav­ior so that no ag­gres­sion is triv­i­al­ized,” read a state­ment from the women’s rights min­istry. The cam­paign has also been rolled out on so­cial me­dia. The aware­ness cam­paign is one of a se­ries of ef­forts un­der­taken by the French gov­ern­ment to com­bat a prob­lem which a re­port pub­lished in April de­scribed as “mas­sive, vi­o­lent and hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive im­pacts.” The cam­paign makes clear that cat-calls and com­ments on a woman’s cloth­ing or physique are un­ac­cept­able, while threats, pub­lic mas­tur­ba­tion, or rub­bing up against a woman in pub­lic trans­port are pun­ish­able by heavy fines or pri­son time.

Gov­ern­ment launched its na­tional plan to com­bat sex­ual ha­rass­ment in July, af­ter an in­creased fo­cus on the prob­lem in re­cent years. Twit­ter cam­paigns such as #take­back­themetro and an­other tar­get­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment on the street, took off in 2014 as ac­tivists urged gov­ern­ment to act against the prob­lem. In Jan­uary, Women’s Min­is­ter Marisol Touraine asked the High Coun­cil for Equal­ity be­tween Men and Women to study the prob­lem and come up with rec­om­men­da­tions. The study found that 100 per­cent of a group of 600 women in­ter­viewed had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment on pub­lic trans­port at some point in their lives. It also showed how women changed their ap­pear­ance or be­hav­ior to avoid such ha­rass­ment.

PARIS: (Left to right) RATP CEO, pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tor for Paris’ area, Elis­a­beth Borne, Ju­nior min­is­ter for Trans­ports Alain Vi­dalies and French Ju­nior min­is­ter for Women’s Rights Pas­cale Bois­tard an­swer jour­nal­ists ques­tions af­ter un­veil­ing the poster of an aware­ness cam­paign on gen­der ha­rass­ment within pub­lic trans­ports yes­ter­day.

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