President Emmanuel Macron has strongly condemned the “horrific and shameful” violence against women in the country, introducing a package of measures aimed at curbing the phenomenon.
“Our entire society is sick with sexism,” Macron said in a speech marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the capital Paris on Saturday.
“France must no longer be one of those countries where women are afraid,” he added.
The French president called for a “pact of gender equality” as he outlined plans to combat sexual harassment and violence.
He said educating schoolchildren and improving police support for rape and assault victims must serve as major guidelines.
The proposals also include criminalizing street harassment and extending the statute of limitation for the rape of minors to 30 years from 20 years.
Macron, who won the presidential election in May, had made gender equality one of the main themes of his five-year term in office.
French activists welcomed the measures as being in the right direction, but called for adequate funding for their effective implementation.
Statistics show that over 80,000 adult women face rape or attempted rape in France every year while only 10 percent file a complaint.
The European country has often debated sexual harassment over the past decade following scandals involving French politicians.
Six years ago, former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund due to a sex scandal.