Calls for action after women hit on streets

LONDON/PARIS • Outrage sparked by men punching young women on the streets of Paris and London has triggered demands for greater action to change men's attitudes, days before France prepares to pass a law to punish public sexual harassment with fines.

In a closed-circuit television video which has gone viral, a man can be seen hitting 22-year-old student Marie Laguerre next to a busy cafe in Paris after she rebuffed his advances last week.

"Because I reacted to his harassment, a man hit me publicly on the street, in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses. Unacceptable," Ms Laguerre posted on Twitter.

She has filed a complaint with police. "We must no longer keep quiet", she wrote.

The assault comes as a man knocked a young woman unconscious outside a nightclub on Saturday morning in Gants Hill, on the outskirts of London. Globally, one in three women and girls experiences physical or sexual violence, the United Nations estimates.

France's Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said on Monday the government was set to pass its sexual violence law by the end of the week. The law covers behaviour including commenting on a woman's looks or clothing, catcalling, intrusive questioning and "upskirting" - taking pictures under a woman's dress without her knowing. Penalties include on-the-spot fines starting at €90 (S$143).

"It is not acceptable that in France, in 2018, women are hit in the street because they refuse to be insulted when they walk. It is a fundamental issue of liberty," Ms Schiappa tweeted in response to Ms Laguerre's assault.

 

But Ms Rachel Krys, co-director of Britain's End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "We need more than a change in the law - we need a culture change."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Calls for action after women hit on streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe