France Cracks Down on Catcalling

catcalling, illegal
Street harassment is now punishable by law in France. Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

In August 2018, French lawmakers officially made catcalling — making noises or comments of a sexual nature — against the law. Catcalls and other forms of street sexual harassment are now a punishable offense that can result in fines of up to 750 euros (around $870).

The move comes after a public outcry for social change fueled, in part, by the viral video of a young woman, Marie Laguerre, who was hit by a man on a Paris street after he made lewd noises and comments, and she objected. The incident was recently a topic of discussion in our Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast.


"What's key is ... that the laws of the French republic forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening and following women in public spaces," Marlene Schiappa, France's secretary for gender equality, told Europe 1 radio.

Along with penalties for catcallers, the French bill included more stringent penalties for other types of sexual misconduct. Under the new law, it will be easier to prosecute crimes of sexual violence against minors age 15 or younger. Previously, any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 could be prosecuted as a sexual offense, but prosecutors had to prove the sex was forced to garner greater punishment. With the criteria of "force" removed, it will pave the way for appropriate charges to be filed.

In addition, the bill includes a decade-long extension during which rape victims who are minors can file complaints. This means that minors who are sexually assaulted or abused now have until 30 years from the day they turn 18 to report wrongdoing. It also makes it illegal to use a smartphone or other device to take photos up a woman's skirt.

Catcalling is not illegal in the United States, although a few states — New York and Alabama, for example — have disorderly conduct laws meant to prevent lewd activity. However, catcalling has been illegal in Belgium since 2014, and is now against the law in Portugal and New Zealand.