France is to ban gender-based insults and wolf whistling in the street in a crackdown against sexism, the country’s president has said.

In a speech Emmanuel Macron said it was unacceptable for France to be “one of those countries where women live in fear” of “verbal violence against women”.

“Gender-based insults will be punishable by law. Offenders will face a deterrent fine,” Mr Macron said.

“Many women have said that the first sexist violence they meet is in the street,” the French President said in the address to mark International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

He added: “And many harassers practice wolf whistling and other types of verbal stigmatisation – and for a long time people reacted with indifference.”

“This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. Women in the republic must not be afraid to use public spaces. This must be one of the priorities of the police.”

During the speech Mr Macron, whose popularity with voters has struggled since his election in May this year, observed a minute’s silence for the 123 women killed by their partners or ex-partners in 2016.

He unveiled a package of measures, one of which will make create “an offence which will give the police the right to issue a fine if there is a verbal attack on a woman”.

The president also said he would create “on-demand” bus stops in the evening to help women to get home safely, and set up a 24-hour national online service for victims of sexual discrimination and harassment.

Mr Macron has also called for an awareness campaign against online pornography and the extension of the powers of the French television regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, to internet videos.

Last month in the UK the Green Party called for attacks against women to be recorded by police as hate crime. Under current rules the Crown Prosecution Service recognises religious, racist, anti-disability, homophobic, biophobic and transphobic hate crimes.