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French government promises new sexual harassment law within weeks

media Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem Reuters/Charles Platiau

France’s Socialist government is to propose a new law on sexual harassment next Wednesday and is likely to beef up the already-existing one on domestic violence, Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Thursday.

The sexual harassment law was scrapped in a shock decision by the Constitutional Council just before the election because it judged the definition of the crime to vague.

Women's rights in France - given or taken?

Both victorious candidate François Hollande and then-incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy promised to replace it.

But new Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has come under fire for declaring it a priority, with right-wing radio and TV commentator Eric Zemmour accusing her of having it in for white men.

Speaking at a forum organised by women’s magazine Marie-Claire, Vallaud-Belkacem said that a draft law is being prepared for discussion at the cabinet next Wednesday so that it can be sent to parliament in “the next few weeks”.

Parliamentary elections 2012

She also declared that “combating violence against women is a priority for me” because it is “an essential prerequisite of any policy on equality”.

The protection of victims was strengthened in 2010 but Vallaud-Belkacem said that it has not been applied consistently and has not been effective enough, adding that the government “should not rule out modifiying the law”.

She hopes to set up a committee to collect and analyse information on domestic violence and advise the government on what measures to implement, she said.

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