PARIS, March 21 (Reuters) - France announced a series of measures against sexual violence on Wednesday, including on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment on the street and extended deadlines for filing rape complaints.
President Emmanuel Macron has said the bill is meant to ensure "women are not afraid to be outside," after a wave of sexual assault allegations leveled against men in the public eye around the world triggered a protest movement online.
Under the legislation, which still needs to be approved by parliament, under-age victims of rape will have until they are aged 48 to file a complaint, taking the deadline to 30 years after they turn 18, from 20 now.
The law will also set an age - 15 - under which one will be presumed not to have agreed to having sex with someone aged 18 or more. This age of consent will facilitate rape prosecutions, Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said.
Together with the age of consent, one of the most eye-catching aspects of the bill, whose main points have been publicly debated over the past few months, has been the plan to punish sexual harassment on the street with fines.
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Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, arrives on stage with his wife Brigitte Trogneux to deliver a speech at the Parc des Expositions hall in Paris after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Emmanuel Macron (L), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux stand together at a polling station to vote in Le Touquet, northern France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux pose for the photograph in Le Touquet, France, April 22, 2017, on the eve of the first round of presidential election. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, kisses his wife Brigitte Trogneux as he arrives on stage to deliver a speech at the Parc des Expositions hall in Paris after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche ! (Onwards !) and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux pose during a lunch break as part of a campaign visit in Bagneres de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees mountain, France, April 12, 2017. Picture taken April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election and his wife Brigitte Trogneux pose in countryside in Le Touquet, France, on the eve of France's first round of the Presidential election, April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement 'En Marche!', or 'Onwards!', and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, kisses his wife Brigitte Trogneux as they attend a meeting for Women's Day in Paris, France, March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux attend a political rally for his political movement, En Marche !, or Forward !, in Le Mans, France, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
French Economy minister Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux arrive to attend the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux attend the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 23: Founder and Leader of the political movement 'En Marche !' and presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron (R), with his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L), addresses activists after the announcement of the French presidential Election results on April 23, 2017 in Paris, France. According to projected results, founder and leader of the political movement 'En Marche !' Emmanuel Macron has received the most votes with National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen in second place, meaning both will now compete against each other in the next round of the French Presidential Elections on May 7. (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)
French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux react during a meeting at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, on April 23, 2017, after the first round of the Presidential election. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick KOVARIK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)
French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron (R) kisses his wife Brigitte Trogneux prior to deliver a speech at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, on April 23, 2017, after the first round of the Presidential election. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick KOVARIK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)
LE TOUQUET-PARIS-PLAGE, FRANCE - APRIL 23: French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron for the En Marche ! movement flanked by his wife Brigitte Trogneux speaks with supporters as he leaves the Touquet polling station after voting for the 1st round of French presidential election on April 23, 2017 in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 17: Brigitte Trogneux (C) attends a meeting of her husband Emmanuel Macron (not pictured), Founder and Leader of the political movement 'En Marche !' and candidate for the 2017 French Presidential Election at AccorHotels Arena (named before Paris Bercy) on April 17, 2017 in Paris, France. France will go to the polls on April 23 to decide their next President. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)
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Schiappa said the fines, to be paid on the spot by offenders, would range from 90 euros to 750 euros ($110 to $920). They could reach 1,500 euros in the case of aggravating circumstances and 3,000 euros for repeat offenders.
"It is crucial that the laws of the republic make it clear that it is not allowed to harass or intimidate women ... whether in the public space, on public transport or online," Schiappa told a news conference. "There can be no lawless zones."
The law has wide popular backing, an Ifop opinion poll showed.
Ninety-two percent of those surveyed agreed with extending the statute of limitations, 90 percent backed punishing harassment on the streets and 69 percent supported setting at 15 the age for sexual consent, the poll carried out on March 1 and 2 for viehealthy.com website showed.
However, critics, including actress Catherine Deneuve, have either questioned how the law could be applied or mocked it as an end to French romance.
Responding to such criticism, Schiappa told Reuters last year: "There is some reluctance, some say we will kill the culture of the 'French lover' if we punish street harassment."
"But it's the opposite. We want to preserve seduction, chivalry and 'l'amour à la francaise' 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," she said.
Schiappa has said street harassment would cover situations such as asking a woman for her phone number a dozen times when she has made clear she is not interested.
The bill will also introduce tougher sanctions for group harassment online by making clear that every single person that is taking part will have to answer for it, even if they just sent a few tweets, Schiappa said. ($1 = 0.8161 euros) (Writing by Ingrid Melander Editing by Alison Williams)
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