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France fights sexual violence on public transport


Paris: France launched an awareness campaign today in a bid to halt the crude comments, groping and sexual violence that women face daily on public transport.

Posters went up at stations around the country with fictitious metro stops labelled with comments such as: “Hello Mademoiselle. You’re lovely. Let’s get to know each other. Is that short skirt for me?”

The remarks get increasingly aggressive from “You’re hot, you’re turning me on. Answer me dirty bitch” to “Stop – that is enough”.

The scenario is one of several on posters at bus, train and metro stations that the government hopes will raise awareness about sexual harassment, a global problem which has prompted similar campaigns in major cities from New York to London.

“A woman’s daily life should not look like this,” reads a line at the bottom of the poster.

Women are advised how to react, such as urging fellow passengers to look up from their smartphones and step in, to reminding their aggressor that touching them in an inappropriate manner can land them in prison from six months to five years.

“The aim is to give everyone the tools to react. To change behaviour so that no aggression is trivialised,” read a statement from the women’s rights ministry.

The campaign has also been rolled out on social media.

The awareness campaign is one of a series of efforts undertaken by the French government to combat a problem which a report published in April described as “massive, violent and having significant negative impacts.”

The campaign makes clear that cat-calls and comments on a woman’s clothing or physique are unacceptable, while threats, public masturbation, or rubbing up against a woman in public transport are punishable by heavy fines or prison time.

Government launched its national plan to combat sexual harassment in July, after an increased focus on the problem in recent years.

Twitter campaigns such as #takebackthemetro and another targeting sexual harassment on the street, took off in 2014 as activists urged government to act against the problem.

In January, Women’s Minister Marisol Touraine asked the High Council for Equality between Men and Women to study the problem and come up with recommendations.

The study found that 100 percent of a group of 600 women interviewed had experienced sexual harassment on public transport at some point in their lives.

It also showed how women changed their appearance or behaviour to avoid such harassment.

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