French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday proposed a raft of measures to combat the “horrific and shameful” violence against women, as he pledged to make gender equality a major cause of his administration.
“Our entire society is sick with sexism,” Macron said in a speech in Paris to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The 39-year-old leader began with a minute of silence to remember the 123 women killed in 2016 in France by their partner or ex-partner.
“France must no longer be one of those countries where women are afraid,” he said.
Public awareness of sexual assault and harassment has been heightened following the charges levelled by women against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The scandal has touched off a worldwide wave of such allegations by women on the internet under the hashtag #MeToo — in French called #balancetonporc which has seen 500,000 tweets since mid-October.
Macron outlined three priorities over the five year term of his presidency from fostering gender equality to giving better assistance to victims of sexual abuse and enforcing harsh measures against aggressors.
Nearly 225,000 women are said to have been victims of physical or sexual violence by their partner in France, but fewer than one in five have made a complaint to authorities.
Macron proposed new measures against this scourge including making a sexual insult an offence in order to combat harassment in the street.
He also called for making 15 the minimum age of consent for sex — there is currently no such law in France.
To make it easier for women to file a complaint, they will be able to go online from their homes and speak directly with people at police stations and learn what steps they can take.
The French president said he wants “to fight for the non-negotiable equality of both sexes” making it a “major cause” during his term in office.