Using the French version of the B-word, among other gendered profanities, may no longer be legal in the country. On Saturday, French president Emmanuel Macron said gendered slurs will be punishable under law and could lead to a monetary penalty. The announcement took place as the French leader spoke out against everyday misogyny on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
"Gender-based insults will be punishable by law," Macron said. "Offenders will face a deterrent fine." He went on to speak about street harassment.
Many harassers practice wolf-whistling and stigmatizing women in the streets verbally. For a long time, people reacted with indifference before [and] they did not respond when they were witnesses of such harassment. This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. All public spaces must be open to women.
The president also held a minute-long silence for the 123 women who were killed by their present or former partners in 2016. So far, it isn't clear how much the fine will be but those who have a predilection for publicly using gender-based profanities may have to rethink their vocabulary choices in the future. "The streets should not become hell for the women of France. This will be one of the priorities of the police," Macron said.
The president also mentioned that the Interior Minister Gérard Collomb would be holding consultations over the next few weeks to combat sexism and misogyny in the French republic. Macron also spoke about the social reluctance among women to actively report misogynistic language to police authorities. He added that law-enforcement agencies frequently consider such reports "not important."
Very often verbal aggression does not lead to women going to the police stations because they feel they are very busy. Even if they do go to the police station, all too often the police officers give up.
Further shedding light on the bureaucratic obstacles that French women experience in reporting sexual harassment and violence, Macron said, "Even if the claims have been filed and accepted, the magistrate do not give priority. The judges do not give priority. So, it takes much longer for discrimination or harassment to be dealt with." Frequently, Macron added, those complaints are "discharged."
The ultimate goals of these measures, according to the president, is to develop a wholesome environment where victims feel encouraged to report their incidents with sexual harassment and "verbal aggression." Macron promised that police authorities will work with more urgency to "correct, repair, and restore" the "dignity of victims."
The French president has been vocal about supporting feminist causes since his own presidential campaign in 2016. In addition to taking verbalized misogyny head-on, Macron's national plan for France will introduce victim-friendly processes for individuals to report sexual violence. The president also plans to provide more holistic and broader means to educate young children about pornography. His measures may be received positively in the republic where BBC reported at least 225,000 French women had been physically or sexually abused by their partners.
The leader of France has called local domestic violence a national "shame" and said on Saturday,
It's indispensable that the idea of shame changes sides, that the Republic cleanses its own concept of shame; that the everyday criminals who harass, insult, touch, attack never be excused, but identified, vilified, brought to justice, condemned as firmly as they should be.
Perhaps with Macron's gender-sensitive initiatives meant for language, the country may encourage women to participate in the republic's political, social, and economic realm with more confidence and gusto. At the moment, however, according to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, the French republic globally ranks 64th in the list as far as female input in economics is concerned. And for a country to be progressive, that has to change.