Sexual offenses have rocketed into the limelight in recent months. The societal phenomenon #balancetonporc (#balancetonporc is the French equivalent of #MeToo) has led Marlène Schiappa, French Minister of State for Gender Equality, to work on a draft bill to combat sexual and sexist behaviors.
With the strengthening of the existing legislative arsenal and the creation of a new criminal charge, what has been the impact of the #balancetonporc movement on the protection of victims of sexual offenses?
The current criminal legislation
The current legislative arsenal criminalizes and establishes penalties for various sexual offenses, the most common of which are listed below:
Rape, defined as "any act of sexual penetration, whatever its nature, committed against another person by violence, coercion, threats or surprise" and punished by "fifteen years' imprisonment" under Article 222-23 of the French Criminal Code; Sexual assault, defined as "any type of sexual abuse committed with violence, constraint, threat or surprise" by Article 222-22 of the French Criminal code and punished by "five years' imprisonment and a 75,000 euros fine") under Article 222-27 of said Code; Sexual abuse, defined as "the commission by an adult, without violence, constraint, threat or surprise of a sexual offence on a minor under fifteen years of age" and punished by "five years' imprisonment and a 75,000 euros fine" under Article 2227-25 of the French Criminal Code; Sexual harassment, defined as "the fact of repeatedly imposing on a person remarks or actions that have a sexual connotation and that affect such person's dignity because of their degrading or humiliating nature or that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for such person" and as "any form of intense pressure, even if not repeated, with the actual or perceived purpose of obtaining sexual favors" and punished by "two years' imprisonment and a 30,000 euros fine" under Article 22-33 of the French Criminal Code. As such, the French Criminal Code penalizes not only any and all acts of sexual penetration and any touching of body parts with a sexual connotation, but also any conduct of a sexual nature that affects the person's dignity or that put him/her in an intimidating situation.
Victims of the aforementioned conducts can file a criminal complaint directly at the police station or by writing a letter to the Public Prosecutor. However, the rest of the process is really an obstacle race...