A French mayor shocked his constituents - and country - with a graphic advertising campaign depicting a woman tied to train tracks.

Robert Menard, mayor of Beziers in the south of France, and outspoken member of Marine Le Pen's political party, the National Front, is campaigning for his region - Occitanie - to get its own high speed train, and chose a peculiar way of driving home the point, reports 20 Minutes.

The campaign's ad depicts a young woman tied to train tracks, screaming, while a vintage train speeds towards her. "With the high-speed train, she'd have suffered less," the main caption reads. The posters can already be seen around Beziers, where they were unveiled on Monday 11 December.

Many have expressed their disapproval of the posters, including president of the Regional Council, Carole Delga, from the Socialist Party - PS. who described them as "shameful".

"Looking to go viral at all costs leads to the most despicable excess. It can only defeat the purpose," she tweeted.

Another representative, former PS MP Sébastien Denaja called on the Secretary of State for Equality, Marlene Schiappa to "file a lawsuit without delay against the outrageous campaign launched by Beziers' mayor".

Schiappa in turn tweeted that the ad was "despicable, once again, especially coming from an elected representative. "She announced she had referred the matter to the regional Prefect, Pierre Pouëssel.

"While one in three women experiences some form of violence in her lifetime, Mr Menard has yet to understand how the physical and psychological pain of these types of assaults affect their integrity," reacted the Prefect. "Nor does he understand how much of a priority fighting against violence against women is."

Many have lodged formal complaints, asking for the posters' immediate removal, including ex-minister of women's rights, Laurence Rossignol, and the Youth Unbowed - former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon's youth supporters.

Rossignol reminded Twitter that a 34-year-old woman was murdered by her husband in the same fashion in June 2017 after he tied her to train tracks before taking his own life. She argued that Menard's ad "kills her a second time".

But Menard has stood his ground, tweeting that the posters were meant to conjure a Western atmosphere, and said the negative reactions "spoke volumes about moral order that plagues the country", and that the same "would have set on fire Johnny in the 1960s" - referring to Johnny Hallyday, the French Legend who died last Wednesday - "Charlie Hebdo in the 1970s" and polemical singer "[Serge] Gainsbourg in the 1980s".

The mayor is no stranger to polemical campaign ads. In October 2016, his campaign for a referendum about the migrant crisis was not well received.