The French Parliament has passed an expanded law on sexual harassment. A conviction will get you two years in jail and a fine of 30,000 euros ($37,000).
The courts deemed the previous sexual harassment law too vague. It defined sexual harassment as “obtaining favors of a sexual nature” and carried a one-year prison term and a fine equal to about $18,500.
The new law defines harassment as “imposing on someone, in a repeated way, words or actions that have a sexual connotation” and either “affecting the person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating nature” or putting him or her in an “intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.” “Such behavior can include blackmail, sexual jokes, neck massages, leaving a pornographic magazine on a person’s desk or looking at someone up and down.”
The government has reported that 1,000 legal cases of sexual harassment occur annually. From 2005 to 2010, a paltry 80 cases resulted in a sentence.
The new law was supported by the left and right and was hailed as an important step in the effort to achieve gender equality in the country.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn episode was a lightning rod for this legislation. DSK, as he is known in the press, was thought to be a candidate to be president of France before he was accused of molesting a hotel housekeeper at a New York City hotel.
It is heartening to see that the French are taking the crime of sexual harassment more seriously. Perhaps it will have an effect on the number of mistresses kept by powerful men in the country; probably not. But “looking at someone up and down” covers a lot of territory, it seems to me. This could result in a barrage of new cases in France.
Here is a U.S. government explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment in this country (click here). It is far less explicit than the new French law.