Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is another French female minister to be appointed in Hollande and Ayrault’s new government this week. Her appointment is the most significant of this election in terms of women’s rights in France, as she has taken up the post of Minister for the Rights of Women. This role has been brought back over a decade after it was abolished in 1998. The promise to bring back this ministerial position is one that Hollande made in a speech during his electoral campaign on International Women’s Day.
In terms of politics, Belkacem is young at only 34 (born 1977). Her origins have also been divisive in a country whose far-right party won approximately 18% of the first round votes in the most recent presidential election. Although she was born in Morocco, Belkacem moved to France at an early age (1982) with her family, to join her father who was already working in Northern France. Despite having dual nationality, Belkacem was attacked by the far-right Front National candidate Nicole Hugon. Hugon said that Belkacem’s election and her dual nationality status was “against French nationality and national preference in France”* (contre la nationalité française et la préférence nationale chez nous). Belkacem came back at these comments saying that dual nationality was “a part of France’s beautiful values” (fait partie des plus belles valeurs [de la République]).
Belkacem’s most prominent work has been in the domain of LGBT rights and bioethics. In Le Monde in February 2011, Belkacem wrote an article arguing the case for bioethic laws in France be changed so that homosexual couples would be allowed to have assistance in creating children through surrogacy or other methods. In an article on her website, Belkacem said, “In the name of freedom, why not extend MAP [medically assisted procreation] to homosexual couples?” (Au nom de la liberté, pourquoi ne pas étendre la PMA (procréation médicalement assistée) aux couples homosexuels). In 2011 this law was updated, but was not changed to include the reproductive rights of homosexual couples.
*National preference is a FN policy involving French national’s having priority for jobs over immigrants.
17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira
16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise