Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa and French President Emmanuel Macron. © MICHEL EULER / AFP

The French government has revealed plans to introduce on-the-spot fines of up to €750 for sexual harassment on the street. The move is part of wider efforts to combat sexual violence.

The legislation, which would be enforced by police, would cover situations such as asking someone for their phone number numerous times when the person has made clear they are not interested. An opinion poll conducted on Wednesday suggested the legislation is backed by 90 percent of the French public.

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Gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa said on Wednesday that offenders caught sexually harassing people in public will be hit with fines ranging from €90-€750 ($110-$920). The penalties could be higher for repeat offenders, or in the case of aggravating circumstances.

“The idea is that it is high enough to be a deterrent but also that we could be sure the harasser can pay it immediately, so that the law can be efficient,” Schiappa said on a Facebook Live session.

Projet de loi @MarleneSchiappa :
92% des Français pour l'allongement du délai de prescription pour les #viols sur mineurs
90% pour la pénalisation du #harcelementderue
69% pour l'instauration de l'âge minimum du #consentement sexuel à 15 ans. Sondage Ifop

— Ifop Opinion (@IfopOpinion) March 21, 2018

The move has faced criticism from some who say it will be difficult to catch offenders in the act and by others, saying it will bring an end to the idea of French romance.

“There is some reluctance, some say we will kill the culture of the ‘French lover’… if we punish street harassment,” Schiappa told Reuters. “But it’s the opposite. We want to preserve seduction, chivalry and ‘l’amour à la française’ by saying what is key is consent. Between consenting adults everything is allowed; we can seduce, talk, but if someone says ‘no’, it’s ‘no’ and it’s final.”

President Emmanuel Macron said the bill is meant to ensure “women are not afraid to be outside”, France 24 reports. The new legislation, which still needs to be approved by parliament, also lengthens the time limit for under-age victims of rape to file complaints. The limit has moved from 20 years after they turn 18 to 30 years.

The age of consent has also been moved up to 15 years old. The proposed changes come in the aftermath of a case in which a rape charge was dropped when a court ruled than an 11-year-old girl had consented to sex with a man more than twice her age.

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