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Sexual harassment and assault

Outrage as women are punched on the streets of Paris and London

The attack on student Marie Laguerre outside a Paris cafe went viral when it was captured on CCTV

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 10:00pm

Outrage sparked by men punching young women on the streets of Paris and London has triggered demands for greater action to change men’s attitudes, days before France prepares to pass a law to punish public sexual harassment with fines.

In a CCTV video, which has gone viral, a man can be seen hitting 22-year-old student Marie Laguerre in the head, next to a busy cafe in the French capital, after she rebuffed his advances.

“Because I reacted to his harassment, a man hit me publicly on the street, in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses. Unacceptable. Stop street harassment,” Laguerre posted on Twitter.

Globally, one in three women and girls experiences physical or sexual violence, the United Nations estimates.

The Paris assault comes as a man knocked a young woman unconscious outside a nightclub on Saturday morning in Gants Hill, on the outskirts of London.

France announced a series of measures against sexual violence in March, including on-the-spot fines, starting at 90 (US$106), for sexual harassment on the street and extended deadlines for filing rape complaints.

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“Since women started sharing their #MeToo stories, it’s become clear the prevalence of sexual violence that women around the world face,” said Rachel Krys, co-director of Britain’s End Violence Against Women Coalition.

“But we need more than a change in the law – we need a culture change, and more provision and counselling for victims of sexual violence,” she said.

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The #MeToo movement was triggered by accusations by dozens of women against US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

French women shared their tales of sexual harassment last year with a name-and-shame hashtag #BalanceTonPorc – or ‘expose your pig’.

France’s gender equality minister Marlene Schiappa told local media on Monday the government was set to pass its sexual violence law by the end of the week.

“It is not acceptable that in France, in 2018, women are hit in the street because they refuse to be insulted when they walk. It is a fundamental issue of liberty,” Schiappa tweeted in response to Laguerre’s assault.

“It happens everyday, everywhere and I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a similar story.

I am sick of feeling unsafe waking in the street,” Laguerre wrote on social media. “Things need to change, and they need to change now.”

The mayor of Paris also commended the student’s stance.

“Total solidarity! Thank you Marie Laguerre for your courage! Stop harassment!” Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.