Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron today proposed a raft of measures to combat “horrific and shameful” violence against women, as he pledged to make gender equality a major theme of his administration.
“Our entire society is sick with sexism,” Macron said in a speech in Paris to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The 39-year-old leader began with a minute of silence to remember the 123 women killed in 2016 in France by their partner or ex-partner.
“France must no longer be one of those countries where women are afraid,” he said.
Public awareness of sexual assault and harassment has been heightened following the allegations levelled by women against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Weeks later, the #metoo hashtag burst into the social media spotlight in mid-October and snowballed into an online movement as women across the world reveal their own similar experiences.
Macron outlined three priorities over the five year term of his presidency from fostering gender equality to giving better assistance to victims of sexual abuse and enforcing harsh measures against aggressors.
Nearly 225,000 women were victims of physical or sexual violence by their partner in France last year, according to official figures. But fewer than one in five of them have filed a complaint with authorities.
Macron proposed new measures against this scourge including making a sexual insult an offence in order to combat harassment in the street.
He also called for making 15 the minimum age of consent for sex — there is currently no such law in France.
To make it easier for women to file a complaint, they will be able to go online and speak directly with police 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
An anti-sexism module will be made available to schools. First lady Brigitte Macron will be personally involved with an effort to raise awareness of harassment in schools.
To help fight against inequality in the workplace, Macron also said he would like to look into the matter of hiring discrimination against women.
The French president said he wants “to fight for the non-negotiable equality of both sexes” making it a “major cause” during his term in office.
France’s Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said the world was at a turning point.
“People can no longer ignore the extent of the violence women are subjected to. They have spoken up and we are responding,” Schiappa said.