France's fight against sexual violence gathers momentum

Marie Laguerre was punched in the face in July after challenging a man who she said was sexually harassing h...

Posted: Nov 19, 2018 8:45 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2018 8:45 PM

Marie Laguerre was punched in the face in July after challenging a man who she said was sexually harassing her on the streets of Paris.

Security footage of the attack went viral, shining a light on the issue of public harassment. A court later handed down a six-month prison sentence to her assailant.

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On Saturday, Laguerre will be joining mass protests across France against sexism and sexual violence.

"I think the violence that women encounter across the world has always existed and it's time to get out in the street and say this is not normal," she told CNN.

"The video of me getting attacked was proof of this violence and everyone saw it. Everyone felt concerned. I believe it made people react and think enough is enough," Laguerre added.

Protesters have been organizing online under the banner of "Nous Toutes (All of us)," as well as #MeToo and #JeMarcheLe24, in reference to the date of the march.

On Monday, the French collective Nous Toutes published an open letter in support of the mass protests.

"Sexual and sexual violence prevents more than half of humanity, women and girls, from exercising their human rights," reads the letter, which was published by local media outlets Mediapart and France Inter.

"They upset their whole life. We do not want this violence anymore."

Almost 140,000 people, including politicians, actors and labor leaders, have signed the #noustoutes letter.

Organizers expect Saturday's demonstrations to attract 100,000 people nationwide, on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25.

"I hope this will be a historic march because we can't accept the world we're living in anymore. Change is happening too slowly," said Laguerre. "Inequality and sexism are alive and well -- it's time to put a stop to that."

A 2015 survey for the French Institute for Demographic Studies found that 20% of the female respondents reported receiving wolf whistles, 8% reported being insulted and 3% reported being followed in public spaces over a span of a year.

Physical violence was reported by 1.3% of women, according to the survey, which had 27,000 respondents.

Women in France also report similar problems in the workplace.

A 2018 survey for local media outlet VieHealthy.com revealed that 32% of women said they had experienced harassment or sexual assault at work.

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