France Passes New Law Against Sexual Harassment

An activist protests at a demonstration the day after the French Constitutional Council decided the immediate repeal of the law on sexual harassment due to the definition of the crime being too vague. Paris May 5, 2012. The signs read, “Repeal of the sexual harassment offense = hunting license”. Photo: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Following the National Assembly, on Tuesday night the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the new law against sexual harassment. The Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Belkacem-Vallaud, quickly congratulated herself on the passage of this “very clear” law that “not only meets the requirements of precision, but also the demands of organizations and victims.”

The new law divides the offense of sexual harassment into two parts. It considers acts that have sexual connotations as well as sexual blackmail, defined as something “using any kind of serious pressure, with the real or visible goal of obtaining an act of a sexual nature.” This is the case even if it is only a single act. The law calls for offenders to be punished by two years in prison and a fine of €30,000. The law also includes aggressive attitude against transsexuals as an offense.

According to organizations fighting sexual violence, this significant advancement will allow for the elimination of hostile environment (or workplace) harassment. In this way, the innuendos and remarks that can impose a negative atmosphere in the workplace can be removed. The new definition of sexual harassment in the Penal code considers more heavily the situations under which these instances occur and is more in line with policies regarding moral harassment in the workplace.

Christiane Taubira, Justice Minister, welcomed the decision, explaining that “the new offense of sexual harassment takes into account all of the practical situations that are experienced by the victims.” She reminded that sexual harassment was “everybody’s business.”

Yet, for many activists this measure is still insufficient. The European Association Against Violence Against Women at Work has criticized some aspects of the new law as not yet accurate enough, before lamenting the fact that “the Penal Code continues to sanction more heavily crimes against property, such as theft, than crimes against people.”

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.

Gerard Ducray, former deputy sentenced for sexual harassment, had requested examination of the law by the Constitutional Council via a Priority Question of Constitutionality. Ducray had argued that the text allowed for “all excesses [and] all interpretations.” The wise – the nickname given to the Council – had agreed,  recognizing that “the principle of legality of offenses and penalties” was not respected by the existing law.

Since then, the politicians of all stripes have advocated a new law. Now that the law has been passed by both legislative chambers, a publicity campaign will also be introduced and implemented in the coming weeks.


  1. Jack the Mack says:

    Why would France,Russia, North America, South America or any other country for that matter ever want to have such a satanic, diabolical, evil,useless law like sexual so-called harassment put into effect and kept in effect since the nineteen seventies for? This law does nothing it just shows how self-deceived the French government is, along with how dim-witted my country’s government is that helped to create this nighmare. This law making men malefactors just because they speak words of truth about someones bosom,cleavage and maybe even their rearend shows the people who do this love Lucifer, Lucifer wants men around the globe to be wrongfully imprisoned for complimenting women and their physical features.

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