France Just Announced a National Plan to Combat Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women

Demonstration against violence against women in Lyon

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a national plan to combat sexism, sexual violence, and domestic violence against women. The policies he outlined include simplifying the process for reporting rape, implementing additional public safety measures for women, and educating schoolchildren about pornography. Meanwhile, women across France gathered for demonstrations against domestic and sexual violence in a rousing observance of Saturday’s designation as the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

During his presidential campaign in 2016, Macron made gender equality a part of his platform. So although his policies weren’t directly prompted by the reignited #MeToo movement—or France’s viral equivalent: “#BalanceTonPorc”, meaning “out your pig”—that picked up after the wave of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, they’re being brought forth at a time when sexual assault and sexual violence is at the forefront of an incredibly necessary cultural conversation.

In Saturday’s speech, Macron began by observing a minute of silence for the 123 women killed in France by a partner or ex-partner in 2016. According to the BBC, an additional 225,000 were physically or sexually abused by their spouses, although fewer than 20 percent filed a report.

“It’s indispensable that the idea of shame changes sides, that the Republic cleanses its own concept of shame; that the everyday criminals who harass, insult, touch, attack never be excused, but identified, vilified, brought to justice, condemned as firmly as they should be,” he said. “France must no longer be one of those countries where women live in fear.”

As a part of the initial measures to protect women and make reporting sex crimes easier, Macron announced that women who experience sexual assault and harassment will be allowed to make their first statement from their homes—prior to bringing criminal charges up with the police—through a 24-hour online service. Through it, they’ll be able to speak to trained police and find out how to report their attack.

Public safety measures are also included in the plans. “On demand” bus stops are in the works to allow women to stop a bus at any point along a route so they can get home safely at night. An app for victims of online stalking will also be available.

According to the BBC, Macron also announced an awareness campaign to educate secondary school students about pornography.

Calling France’s society “sick with sexism,” he announced further proposals for laws that criminalize street harassment as well as extending the statute of limitation for the rape of minors from 20 years to 30 years.

Macron also stated that he wants to set the country’s age of sexual consent at 15, which, according to the BBC, aligns with the country’s legally fixed age of sexual maturity (France currently has no age of consent).

According to Reuters, French feminist group Osez le Féminisme stated that the only thing standing in the way of making these changes a reality is adequate funding from the government—which they don’t currently believe is the reality. “Without funding, any communication, training, awareness or help plan for the victims will be useless,” the group said.

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