A survey of 600 women living in two Paris suburbs found that all of them reported being sexually harassed while riding the subway. All of them. One hundred percent. Alternate headline: Get Ahold of Yourselves, Frenchmen.
The Local’s France Bureau reports that the survey was conducted by the High Council for Equality between Women and Men, The 600 women surveyed all came from Seine-Saint-Denis and Essonne, two Paris suburbs. The results were sent last week to France’s Health Minister, Marisol Touraine. According to the Telegraph, Touraine said the government would take “strong measures” very soon, calling it “intolerable” that women weren’t able to ride the train in peace. The Telegraph reports that the harassment was classified as anything from “insults to other intimidating behavior (insistent flirting, whistling, comments on appearance), to sex attacks or rape.”
Sexual harassment on public transportation is an issue in every major city, although not quite to this extent. Pascale Boistard, Secretary of State for Women’s Rights, told the newspaper 20 Minutes that while the subway can be “a pick-up spot,” in the words of her interviewer, it ought not be a spot for groping.
“We say yes to seduction,” she told the paper. “But not to hands on buttocks. Touching the buttocks, breasts, sex, mouth or thighs of a young woman without her consent is sexual assault. It is illegal.”
Boistard stressed the need for “education and prevention,” not just for women being harassed but for bystanders. She referred to a 2014 case in Lille where at least five people ignored a woman pleading for help as she was being pursued down a train platform by a drunken man brandishing a bottle of vodka and threatening her with rape. When the man followed her into a train car, the witnesses all piled into a different car. The man sexually assaulted her. She then bounded out of the subway and ran down the street screaming for help until a car finally stopped. Boistard called the incident “unacceptable.”
A Paris subway station. Photo via Getty Images