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France parliament adopts new sexual harassment law

The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday unanimously adopted a new sexual harassment law [materials, in French] that criminalizes the act, imposing a punishment of up to three years in jail. The new law comes three months after the Constitutional Council of the French Republic [official website, in French] ruled in May that the country's sexual harassment law was unconstitutionally vague [JURIST report]. The law was struck down because the penal code did not provide any specific definition of sexual harassment. The new law offers clear definitions of the types of offenses that can be prosecuted under the law, as well as applicable sentencing. The passage of the new legislation will allow prosecutors to resume cases [AFP report] against sexual harassment suspects. In the three months since the repeal of the old law, all cases of sexual harassment were dropped.

The original sexual harassment law, in place since 1992, defined the crime as an abuse of authority. The law was revised in 2002. The council found the new definition, which defines the crime as "the act of harassing others with the goal of obtaining sexual favors," to be unconstitutionally vague. Last year, France signed a Council of Europe (COE) treaty vowing to end violence against women [JURIST report]. The treaty targets crimes including rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, forced abortion and forced sterilization. In 2006, the COE released a report criticizing [JURIST report] France's human rights record and identifying impunity for domestic violence as a shortcoming in the French judicial system.

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