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"It’s a way of not taking women’s voices into consideration, to deny your work or your role," Francoise de Panafieu, whose mother Helene Missoffe was a junior minister in the 1970s as well as an Assembly deputy. "Since my mother, the place of women in politics has not budged."
The new sexual harassment law, which was passed by the Senate last week, is supposed to address problems in France that many say have been going on for as long as women have been a big part of the workforce. It sets three levels of harassment, with the most serious punishable by three years in prison. Among the circumstances that merit the most severe punishment: if the harasser has authority over the victim, if the victim is younger than 15, or if multiple people carry out the harassment.
Guenifi listed acts that would draw the most lenient, one-year punishment, including repeated gestures, discourse, or other sexually suggestive actions intended to create a hostile or intimidating environment.
"All that, and one year of prison?" she asked. "It’s scandalous, truly scandalous."
Vallaud-Belkacem acknowledged a vast disparity in sentencing for theft, which can draw a sentence of up to four years, and said the quick timetable meant that broader issues of justice might have to wait.
"You don’t have time to deal with that sort of thing when you’re facing as urgent a situation as we are with sexual harassment."
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