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Woman slapped by harasser says new French law falls short

August 2, 2018
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French student Marie Laguerre, 22, poses during an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 in Paris. A video of a man striking Laguerre after she responded to obscene sounds he made as she passed by him in Paris went viral in France this week. French lawmakers gave final passage Wednesday to a bill that expands the criminal definition of child rape and outlaws sex harassment on the street, measures the government described as a signal of deep social change. (AP Photo/Nicolas Garriga)

PARIS (AP) — A 22-year-old woman who is becoming a symbol of sexual harassment on France’s streets said Thursday that a new law banning offensive comments and behavior isn’t enough to stop them.

Marie Laguerre said she has received messages of thanks from women and men for posting a video of a man slapping her last month in eastern Paris. Surveillance cameras recorded the violent encounter after she told the man to shut up for making obscene sounds at her, she said.

While the footage went viral after she publicized it, Laguerre said in an interview with The Associated Press she thinks punishing harassers won’t address the problem as much as changing attitudes through education.

The law is “almost a joke,” Laguerre, a student, said during an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t think it’s realistic because it means having police officers on every street” and officers also need to be educated to recognize harassing behavior.

French lawmakers approved a bill late Wednesday to outlaw gender-based harassment on the streets and public transportation. The law allows for fines of 90-750 euros ($105-$876) for sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating hostile or offensive.

It also authorizes a fine of up to 15,000 euros ($ 17,533) and a year in prison as possible sentences for “upskirting” — taking pictures or videos under clothing without consent.

“The law sends a message, but for me it’s not enough,” Laguerre said, noting that French President Emmanuel Macron promised to make combating sexual harassment and violence a national priority.

The law, which is set to take effect in September, also expands the criminal definition of child rape to cover cases involving an adult and a child under age 15 if a judge determines the minor lacked the ability to consent.

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