France looks set to pass a new law that could lead to jail sentences for people who insult or discriminate against the poor.
Under the proposals, offenders guilty of insulting the poor or refusing them jobs, healthcare or housing would face a maximum three years imprisonment and a fine of €45,000.
One person who could face prosecution would be President François Hollande, who, according to his former girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler, referred to the poor as “the toothless”.
The bill, proposed by Socialist senator Yannick Vaugrenard, would outlaw discriminating against those suffering from “vulnerability resulting from an apparent or known economic situation”.
The Times reports that it has already been approved by the upper house of the French parliament and now looks set to be passed by the lower house.
However, detractors have warned the law will be unworkable and could backfire against the very people it’s supposed to help.
Opposition politicians abstained on the bill, saying it will do nothing to genuinely help those most in need. Olivier Cadic, a senator in the conservative opposition, the Republicans, said: “It’s poverty that we have to fight, discrimination is just the disastrous consequence.”
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January this year, there was a mass outpouring in support for free speech from the French people under the banner “Je suis Charlie”. However, there is increasing evidence the state has ignored this.
Just days after the attack, AP reported that up 70 people had been arrested for allegedly defending terrorism. The most famous was controversial comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who wrote on Facebook “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – referring to attacker Amedy Coulibaly.
Dieudonné later wrote an open letter to the country’s Interior Minister saying: “You consider me like Amedy Coulibaly when I am no different from Charlie.”