Wolf whistling at women is set to be banned in France in a bid to combat unprecedented levels of sexual harassment. Under the new laws, it may also become illegal to pester someone for their telephone number—another form of unwanted attention many women have encountered while out and about.
After recent surveys revealed that almost all French women have been harassed at one point or another, France is taking serious measures to combat this problem. The plans to ban wolf whistling come thanks to Emmanuel Macron, who made the battle against sexual harassment a central aspect of his presidental election campaign.
An unwelcome wolf whistle is considered to be a precursor to sexual harassment by some because it can make the victim feel uncomfortable or objectified. The wolf whistle is said to come from the navy’s general call: produced by a boatswain’s pipe on a ship, it aims to summon everyone on deck for an important announcement. As sailors pulled up into the harbour, they’d make this loud whistle when catching sight of an attractive female so that all the sailors could come and marvel, a habit eventually picked up by passersby onshore.
While UK laws are slightly less relaxed, France would not be the first country to instigate such measures—both Belgium and Portugal already have similar laws—but issues have arisen in its construction. Some lawyers insist that men should only be prosecuted when police officers witness the offence first-hand while others disagree.
The details of the eventual French law have yet to be finalised.