France: A number of cases dropped after France repeals sexual harassment law
France drops sexual harassment law
The French High Court has decided to repeal the country’s sexual harassment law on the grounds that the definition was too vague and confusing. While the system is refined and reworked, victims' lawyers have been told to pursue other grounds for prosecution including attempted sexual assault.
The repeal in the law is envisaged to eventually provide clearer guidelines for judges in a bid to bring about more convictions in the future. The European Association For Women’s Rights agrees that the law needed adjusting but it has labeled the move to drop it completely as “absolutely catastrophic”.
The measure, which came into effect immediately, means that any ongoing sexual harassment cases which haven’t already gone to court will be dropped. This has sparked anger amongst a number of feminist groups who claim they have been abandoned by the justice system. In response, the French Justice Ministry is advising prosecutors to pursue cases on other grounds such as attempted sexual assault or deliberate violence.
The law was established in 2002 and stated that it was an offence to “harass someone in order to gain sexual favours” and was punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and 15,000 euros fine.
According to online broadcaster RFI, the decision was based on the outcome of an appeal in the Gérard Ducray case, one of the French politicians who was recently convicted over the sexual harassment of three employees. Ducray told RFI that because the 2002 law was so open to interpretation people could be wrongly convicted for “simply flirting”. The former Deputy Mayor of the Rhone region received a three-month suspended sentence and a 5,000 euro fine.
The Social Cohesion Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, said she would push the new parliament to act quickly to adopt a new law, and a spokesperson for President François Hollande told French Press Agency that “he would commit to implementing a new law concerning sexual harassment as soon as possible.”
But that could still be months away as parliamentary proceedings have been suspended until the end of June.
Each year in France there are on average 80 convictions for sexual harassment.