France drops sex harassment law, angers feminists
PARIS (Reuters) - France repealed a sexual harassment law on Friday on the grounds that the definition of the crime was too vague, sparking renewed debate of an issue put into the spotlight by the arrest of one-time presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn last year.
Some women's groups said the decision, by France's highest constitutional body, would leave victims without legal protection until a new law is penned, while others argued an improved law could lead to more convictions.
Former International Monetary Fund chief Strauss-Kahn was arrested last May, accused of sexual assault by a hotel maid. The charges were later dropped but the ensuing scandal cast a harsh light on a practice in France of hushing up or shrugging off sexual advances by powerful figures. Feminists demanded a change of attitude.
Strauss-Kahn had already been rapped over a sexual relationship with a subordinate in 2008, who said she felt pressured to sleep with him, and French writer Tristane Banon filed a complaint after the New York case alleging he tried to assault her in 2003.
Junior civil service minister Georges Tron was forced to resign in June after two women who had worked for him filed sexual harassment complaints. One said the debate sparked by the Strauss-Kahn scandal had prompted her to break her silence.
Friday's repeal of the law should eventually lead to clearer guidelines for judges. But the fact the measure goes into effect immediately means that all ongoing sexual harassment cases not yet ruled on in court will be thrown out.
MONTHS OF DELAY
It could be months - if not longer - before new legislation is adopted given that a new National Assembly, which would write the new law, will only be elected in June, following Sunday's presidential election runoff.
"Article 222-33 of the penal code calls for the misdemeanor of sexual harassment to be punishable but the component elements of the infraction are not sufficiently defined," the Constitutional Council wrote in its ruling. Continued...