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French campaign targets sexual harassment on public transport

Bertrand Guay / AFP | (Pictured left to right) RATP CEO Elisabeth Borne , French Junior minister for Women's Rights Pascale Boistard and Junior minister for Transport Alain Vidalies at an awareness campaign on gender harassment

France launched a public awareness campaign on Monday in a bid to stop the crude comments, groping and even sexual violence that women face on the city's public transport lines.

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Posters went up at stations around the country with fictitious metro stops labelled with comments such as: "Hello, Mademoiselle," "You're lovely," "Let's get to know each other," and "Is that short skirt for me?"

The remarks get increasingly aggressive from, "You're hot, you're turning me on," to "Answer me, dirty bitch". The poster then states: "Stop – that's enough" (Stop – ça suffit).

The scenario portrayed is one of several appearing on posters at bus, train and metro stations that the government hopes will raise awareness about sexual harassment, a global problem which has prompted similar campaigns in major cities including New York to London.

"A woman's daily life should not look like this," reads a line at the bottom of the poster.

Women are advised how to react, such as urging fellow passengers to look up from their smartphones and step in, to reminding their aggressor that touching them in an inappropriate manner can land them in prison from six months to five years.

"The aim is to give everyone the tools to react. To change behaviour so that no aggression is trivialised," read a statement from the women's rights ministry.

The campaign has also been rolled out on social media.

The awareness campaign is one of a series of efforts undertaken by the French government to combat a problem that a report published in April described as "massive, violent and having a significant negative impact".

The campaign makes clear that cat-calls and comments about a woman's clothing or physique are unacceptable, while threats, public masturbation or rubbing up against a woman in public transport are punishable by heavy fines or prison time.

The government launched its national plan to combat sexual harassment in July after an increased focus on the problem in recent years.

Twitter campaigns such as #takebackthemetro and another targeting sexual harassment on the street took off in 2014, as activists urged government to take action against the problem.

In January, Marisol Touraine – France's minister of social affairs, health and women's rights – asked the government's council for gender equality to review the problem and come up with recommendations.

A government study found that 100 percent of a group of 600 women interviewed had experienced sexual harassment on public transport at some point in their lives.

It also showed how women had changed their appearance or behaviour to avoid such harassment.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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