o country in the world has achieved gender equality, and no country can achieve it alone.” Such words were spoken by Marlene Schiappa, France’s Minister for Gender Equality, at May’s G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council meeting. Schiappa had the pleasure of hosting May’s meeting on behalf of her native France, which will be chairing August’s 2019 G7 Summit in Biarritz.
France has made gender equality a key part of its G7 presidency. The country has set five goals for fighting inequality in general during its turn at the helm of the G7, including fighting against gender inequality, specifically. Further, France has already hosted two meetings of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, which brings together a diverse group of experts and policymakers from across the world devoted to discussing issues of gender inequality. President Macron has encouraged the Gender Equality Advisory Council to help bring these discussions to this summer’s G7 summit.
Gender equality has been a large focus of Macron’s administration in general; in November 2017, the president announced that gender equality was “the great cause of his five-year term.” Macron’s personal efforts to promote gender equality have been received with mixed results. Though half of his party’s candidates were women in France’s June 2017 elections, some feminists felt let down when the young president failed to select a female prime minister.
Still, Macron found a firebrand feminist in his Minister for Gender Equality, Marlene Schiappa. Schiappa, a former blogger and author, spares few words when fighting for feminism. When responding to an open letter chastising the #MeToo movement (and French equivalent #BalanceTonPorc) as “puritanism,” she wasn’t afraid to cite class issues, arguing that women who don’t understand the dangers of street harassment likely can afford vehicles and avoid harassment on public transportation. She’s been vocal about a gamut of feminist issues both at the podium and on paper. The 18 books Schiappa has authored cover topics such as rape culture; one such volume edited by Schiappa is known simply as “Letters To My Uterus.” In 2018, she made headlines when she performed in a rendition of the popular feminist play The Vagina Monologues. And she’s not just talk. Since joining President Emanuel Macron’s cabinet in 2017, Schiappa has wasted little time tackling gender equality issues through legislation.
One of Schiappa’s first initiatives as gender equality minister was to tackle gender-based violence, specifically in the form of street harassment, in France. Though street harassment is a problem across the globe, it's especially prevalent in France, where 2018 data found that 80% of French women had experienced street harassment.
One of Schiappa’s first initiatives as gender equality minister was to tackle gender-based violence, specifically in the form of street harassment, in France. Though street harassment is a problem across the globe, it's especially prevalent in France, where 2018 data found that 80% of French women had experienced street harassment, as compared to 65% of American women and 64% of British women. Schiappa’s solution to the problem? Legislation that fines street harassers on the spot. First offenses carry a 90-euro fine if paid immediately that changes to 750 euros if paid later. And for second offenders? Catcalling can carry a whopping 3000-euro charge. In spite of criticism that questioned the legislation’s efficacy, 447 fines were handed down in the first eight months following the law’s passage.
In France, Schiappa’s other equality-driven efforts more closely align with the gender equality initiatives her country has prioritized for this year’s G7 Summit. As part of their focus on ending gender-based violence, the G7 Ministers that met as part of May’s Gender Equality Advisorty Council focused on finding solutions for cyber harassment. Similarly, a component of Schiappa’s harassment legislation focuses on online “group harassment,” working to punish groups of offenders who deliberately target one victim. In another recommendation stemming from May’s meeting, G7 Ministers urged online platforms to remove illegal content on their sites quickly; while working to pass her harassment legislation in France, Schiappa reached a similar conclusion, arguing that tech companies needed to be cooperative in government measures to police the internet. In the wake of her law’s passage, Schiappa identified cyberspace as an area where more work needed to be done to stop harassment.
Women’s entrepreneurship was a prominent focus of the meeting, concentrated especially on stimulating women’s economic development in Africa and the Sahel.
Other equality-driven recommendations that came out of May’s Gender Equality Advisory Council meeting focus on threats to gender equality felt outside of France. Women’s entrepreneurship was a prominent focus of the meeting, concentrated especially on stimulating women’s economic development in Africa and the Sahel. Additional discussion revolved around supporting women’s education around the world and fighting gender-based and sexual violence, including female genital mutilation.
Ultimately, Macron hopes that members of the Gender Equality Advisory Council propose tangible solutions for improving gender equality across the globe. Prior to this year’s G7 summit, the Gender Equality Advisory Council will meet again to finalize their recommendations for implementing laws designed to combat gender inequality. G7 states will then be invited to implement at least one piece of legislation from the “Biarritz Partnership” a collection of laws identified by the Council to best advance gender equality worldwide. Hopefully, August’s summit sees the dawn of several legislative methods for advancing women’s rights worldwide.