Cat-calls, wolf-whistling, or just plain harassment. Whatever you want to call it, receiving loud, male attention while out and about is something that women have been facing for years.
It’s a subject that divides opinion. For some, the attention is welcome, but for others, wolf-whistling is intrusive, intimidating and degrading.
Over in France, government ministers are actually taking steps to make it illegal, as part of proposed anti-harrassment measures.
French politicians are considering banning wolf-whistling in public, with new laws that would also make following women to get their number a criminal offence.
The change is being considered by a group of five MPs, set up by Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men.
“The idea is to characterise street harassment so that the police can impose fines on men who follow women on the streets, intimidate them and harass them in public space,” she revealed to local media.
She added: “It is a cultural struggle to bring down the tacit consensus of acceptance of violence.”
Talking about the kind of behaviour that would face prosecution, Marlène explained: “You are a woman in an underground train. I am a man. I follow you. You get off the train. I get off. You get on another train. I get on too, and ask you for your telephone number. I ask again. And a third time. You feel oppressed. That is street harassment.”
What punishment would wolf-whistling face?
The idea is that people who broke the anti-harrassment law would face large fines. But reportedly, lawyers over in France fear that the actual offence could be difficult to prove – given that it’s based on a his word vs. her word scenario.
However, Marlène has maintained that they want to safeguard against innocent flirting and chatting. She said, “Talking to someone and asking for [a number] will not be considered harassment.”
The news comes after a survery showed that almost all French women said they had been harrassed on the street or on public transport.
The country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, called to put a stop to female harassment as part of his election campaign.
It’s not clear if, and when, the law would come into force.