In a revolutionary move to tackle prevalent sexism and its impact on increasing violence against women, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France is to ban gender-based insults and wolf whistling in the street, in its serious efforts to put an end to sexism. President Macron said it was unacceptable for France to be “one of those countries where women live in fear”. He was also quoted as saying “Gender-based insults will be punishable by law. Offenders will face a deterrent fine”.
In his address to the nation on International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, he said “Many women have said that the first sexist violence they meet is in the street.” He added: “And many harassers practice wolf whistling and other types of verbal stigmatisation – and for a long time people reacted with indifference. This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. Women in the republic must not be afraid to use public spaces. This must be one of the priorities of the police.”
We applaud this strong and powerful move by the French government, and feel these measures are very much the need of the hour not just in France, but across the world. In a country like ours where the majority of verbal insults and swear words are gender based, and indirectly attack women, a ban on and fine for usage of such words, while difficult to measure, is required to reduce the increasing objectification of women. Our society, especially mass media, has normalized these abuses, and ‘eve-teasing’ to such an extent, that many of us are desensitized to verbal harassment, which often serves the first step towards physical and sexual violence. Laws such those proposed by the French government, are essential in India and we hope that Indian policy makers take note of this move by France, and forms stringent measures to tackle violence against women.