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The number two news story in France today, after the final day of campaign for the Presidential Second Round vote this Sunday, was the abolition of the 2002 French law against Sexual Harassment, effective immediately.

Judged by the French Constitution’s safeguard body, the Conseil Constitutionnel, made up of a nine members nominated by the President, currently 2 women and 7 men – an emeritus member of which is former French President Jacque Chirac – decided earlier today that the criminal law concerning sexual harassment is not sufficiently defined, insufficiently clear, to be held as constitutional. Much like the Supreme Court in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions, the Conseil Constitutionnel is responsible for ensuring that French laws are just, unbiased and therefore constitutional. Legally, the move was perhaps a just one. Practically, however, the decision was unwise.

As the criminal code currently stands, no law against sexual harassment now exists in France and the cases that are currently on trial are now at risk of being blocked.

Women’s groups, harassment victims and a large majority of the French population are stunned by this evolution.  Seventy cases have already been judged under the law since its ratification in 2002. These cases will not be automatically reversed.

A shocking move on the part of the Conseil Constitutionnel given that a replacement to the 2002 harassment law will not be written and voted into law for another several months after the Presidential election and the reforming of the French Federal government.

For more information, visit the Constitutional Counsel’s English website here.