Op-Ed: Getting Away with Sexual Harassment Just Got Easier

Wednesday, June 20, the Senate finished its report on a new sexual harassment law that will fill the current legal void surrounding the issue.

In the wake of the Presidential Election, a major court decision went relatively unnoticed.  As of May 4th, 2012, there is no longer a law protecting sexual harassment victims in France.

We can, in large part, thank Gérard Ducray for this.

Ducray was prosecuted for sexual harassment and convicted in 2010 and then again in 2011 after he appealed the decision. After the second decision, the only solution left to him was to appeal his case to the Constitutional Council, the French equivalent of the Supreme Court. On May 4th the Constitutional Council declared that the law was, in fact, unconstitutional and repealed it.

It is very rare that the Constitutional Council repeals a law without allowing time for legislators to write a replacement. Thus, the decision leaves all current sexual harassment cases and future cases without possible legal solutions. All victims of sexual harassment who were already engaged in the legal process as of May 4th and those who will be future victims have no solution to punish their tormenters as the law has no retroactive effect—at least until a new law is written.

This exceptional decision caused the newspaper, Le Parisien, to write,  “it is an act of powerful people protecting each other.” Interestingly, Ducray is a close friend of two members of the Constitutional Council and he is a well-known figure in the political world.  For many, the repeal of the law perfectly shows that justice is not universally equal even if it is written in the Constitution and instead promotes the message that with power, people can do whatever they want, above all for sexual matters.

For the feminist movements, the repeal was a huge setback : rights against sexual harassment were first included into law in 1992 after a difficult fight for recognition. The law of 1992 was a huge victory, finally creating consequences for the persecution of women. Twenty years later, those consequences are non-existent once more.

The new government has worked to make this situation a priority. The Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, and the Women’s Rights Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, submitted a bill to the Council of Ministers on June 13. The government chose to utilize the accelerated procedure for passing laws to ensure that a new law will be finished by the end of the summer. The Senate has finished its report now the bill must go to the National Assembly who will discuss the new law and most likely pass the bill as quickly as possible.

But for many, its not fast enough.


  1. […] The announcement and implementation of the new law will be published in the coming days, with the goal of quickly filling the legal gap created by the Constitutional Council that, on May 4, repealed the old law for being too vague. […]

  2. […] was saved from conviction on sexual harassment charges by the Constitutional Council, when it repealed the law due to “imprecision.” The only problem is that Ducray had close friends in the […]

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