Nicolas Sarkozy, so far in his presidential campaign, has failed to attend any women’s rights forums or debates, despite having invites to two well-respected events. It is speculated that Sarkozy may make a late surge in the polls, and given what little attention he has given to women’s issues, it is unlikely that French feminist groups will be pleased by this.
Last month Sarkozy declined the invitation to be present at a question and answer evening organized by Féministes en Mouvement – a direct snub of feminist groups. Sarkozy’s rivals Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de gauche), Eva Joly (EELV) François Hollande (PS), and Philippe Poutou (NPA) did attend however and were questioned individually on issues. Mélenchon was the only candidate to criticize the current President on his policies. He accused Sarkozy of “being against [Muslim] prayers in the street, but allowing Catholics to pray in front abortion clinics.” (d’être contre les prières [musulmanes] dans la rue, mais laisse les catholiques prier devant les centres d’IVG ). Mélenchon added that he believes there needs to be an attack on the ideology of the far right, which Sarkozy partly represents.
More recently, Sarkozy missed the forum organized by Elle magazine this week because protesters were blocking the entrance at a prestigious Paris Science-Po university where the debate was being held. However, Nathalie Arthaud, François Bayrou, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, François Hollande, Eva Joly and Marine Le Pen did manage to make it inside for the debate. Up to this point, Sarkozy had not made any pledges directly relating to problems affecting women.
On the 5th of April, however, Sarkozy did finally unveil some plans for creating 200,000 more places in childcare. On his website it says that these places are “in order to give parents a free choice to either work or stay at home and raise their children” (pour accorder aux parents un libre choix : celui de travailler ou de rester à la maison pour élever leurs enfants).
This is such a small measure which is unlikely to appease feminists who are already unhappy with the present government.