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Girls & Women

This Bold Feminist Poster Campaign Is Striking a Chord in Paris and Beyond

By Elena Berton

PARIS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A feminist poster campaign in Paris that draws on street art techniques to denounce rape, sexual harassment and murder is striking a chord with city residents and inspiring copycats as far afield as China, its creator said.

Over the last year, activists have been pasting walls with white A4 paper sheets painted with black letters to spell out messages such as "She's not dressed as a slut. You think like a rapist" and "Women are screaming. The state remains silent".

"In the beginning, we addressed our messages to politicians, urging them to act about domestic violence," said Marguerite Stern, 29, who initiated the campaign by putting up several poster messages and sharing photographs of them on social media.

While the government "has done nothing concrete", the posters have given women a forum and helped change how they approach public spaces, Stern told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Avec mes sœurs @clem.frisch et P et A.

A post shared by Marguerite Stern (@marguerite_stern) on

📷 @annehollandephotography

A post shared by Marguerite Stern (@marguerite_stern) on

"They help those who put up the posters and also those who just walk by and see the messages, because they feel they're not alone any more," she said.

Putting posters on city walls is illegal in France so the "Gluers", as they have become known, work quickly and normally after dark to avoid being spotted.

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Although France became the first country to pass a law punishing public sexual harassment in August 2018, women say they continue to be subjected to catcalls, insults and violence when they walk in the street.

A quarter of French women aged between 18 and 29 are afraid when they are out in the streets, and at least 20% face harassment at least once a year, according to a 2019 report by the country's INSEE statistics bureau.

Avec @lady.k_156 👸🏼👊

A post shared by Marguerite Stern (@marguerite_stern) on

Nearly 70% of young women living in the Paris area have suffered sexual harassment or violence in public, another government study found.

Stern's first poster message, which she put up in February 2019, recalled her experiences of sexual harassment on the streets of Paris and later in Brussels.

"Men on the street have been making comments about my appearance since I was 13," the poster read.

(Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)