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Posts Tagged ‘Violence Against Women’

French Sexual Harassment Law Expected Imminentley

In Crime, Politics, Society on May 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

Image from Liberation.fr

In her new role as Minister for Justice, Christiane Taubira has announced that there will soon be a new law created against sexual harassment. At present, there is no law against sexual harassment in France as it was abolished earlier in May. The previous law, dating back to 1992,  was abolished as it was considered to be “too vague” (trop flou) and it was feared that there was “the possibility of condemning people who are simply flirting” (la possibilité de condamner de simples dragueurs).  Anyone convicted of sexual harassment could be punished with “up to a year in prison and fined up to 15,000 euros” (d’un an d’emprisonnement et de 15 000 euros d’amende).

The end of this law triggered protest amongst women’s rights groups who saw the potential for victims of sexual harassment to go unheard and without justice. The Association européenne contre les Violences faites aux Femmes au Travail [AVFT] (European Association against Workplace Violence against Women) launched a campaign to have the law reinstated, including a letter petitioning the incoming President François Hollande.

This week, the new Minister for Justice reacted to what she sees as,  “a completely intolerable legal loophole ” (C’est un vide juridique absolument insupportable). This commitment was made by Hollande during his campaign, on the exact same day that the law was abolished [4th May 2012]. The law was originally abolished because it was feared that it would be too easy to wrongly convict people of sexual harassment. It is hoped that this new law will be better structured as to protect victims, but also to prevent people from being wrongly imprisoned or fined.

For more information, read about the law’s abolition here and what Christiane Taubira had to say on the new law here.

Recommended Reads:

17/05/2012: Influential French Women: Christiane Taubira

27/03/2012: If Hollande becomes President, will it benefit the women of France?

16/05/2012: Hollande Delivers on Equality Promise

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If Hollande becomes President, will it benefit the women of France?

In Politics, Society on March 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

François Hollande in Reims. Image from francoishollande.fr.

“It is the 8th of March and it’s International Women’s Day. But this can’t be the fight of just one day, it should be a fight fought daily, every day, and it will be something we undertake together.” – François Hollande

“Nous sommes le 8 mars, c’est la Journée internationale des femmes. Mais ce ne peut pas être le combat d’un jour ; ce doit être le combat de chaque jour, de tous les jours, et ce sera le sens de ce que nous allons engager ensemble.” – François Hollande

A quick look at the latest polls will tell you that Francois Hollande is most likely to be voted in as France’s next President. But what does this mean for France’s female population, and will it satisfy French feminists?

In a speech made in Riems (on International Women’s Day -8th March), Hollande said, “I want to tell (all the women) of the France of tomorrow, of the France after the 6th of May, that it will be a France where women will have the same opportunities, the same rights and the same capacity as men to succeed in their lives.” (Je veux (à toutes les femmes) dire que la France de demain, la France de l’après 6 mai, ce sera la France où les femmes auront les mêmes chances, les mêmes droits, les mêmes capacités que les hommes pour réussir leur vie.) He obviously has a good speech writer, but what does he propose to actually do to achieve these aims?

As has already been discussed on this blog, February saw debates arise about the accessibility of contraception for minors in France. Almost a month after the publication of a report recommending contraception be made more freely available for teenagers in France, François Hollande announced on his website and during his speech in Reims that he would support universal and free contraception to be made accessible for young girls across the country: “We have young teenage girls who can’t access contraception, for reasons related to where they live and their family situation… I will therefore introduce a plan for contraception for minors. The day after the election, there will be a reform to implement this plan which will offer these young women, throughout the country, access to free and anonymous contraception with consultation from a doctor.” (Nous avons des jeunes filles mineures qui ne peuvent pas accéder à la contraception, pour des raisons qui tiennent à la géographie, à la situation de famille…J’instaurerai donc un forfait mineur contraception. Il y aura au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle une réforme mettant en œuvre ce forfait qui offrira à ces jeunes filles, partout sur le territoire, l’accès à la contraception gratuite, accompagnée par un médecin et anonyme.) This is good news, surely, for feminists in France who have been fighting for greater free and anonymous access to birth-control, although there will surely be some struggle with the right wing to make this possible.

“The feminist battle is a social battle. It’s a battle for the recognition of dignity, for solidarity. It’s a fight that recognises the unique circumstances of women, but above that, one that wants to overcome the inevitable gender differences in nature, in each journey, in our origins in order to bring us together as one republic, the French Republic, based on these values.” – François Hollande

“Le combat féministe est un combat social. C’est un combat pour la reconnaissance de la dignité, pour l’égalité, pour la solidarité. C’est un combat qui reconnaît la situation particulière des femmes, mais au-delà, qui veut dépasser ce qui est forcément des différences liées au sexe, à la nature, au parcours, aux origines, pour nous mettre ensemble dans la même République, la République française, fondée sur des valeurs.” – François Hollande

Hollande proposes to address male and female inequalities in politics and law by creating a Minister for the Rights of Women (un ministère du Droit des femmes). He hastens to note that this new minister will not be there to create further bureaucracy and more laws but make sure there are laws which are, “better enforced, effective and able to be realistically applied” (c’est des lois mieux appliquées, effectives et capables de mettre le droit dans la réalité).

In his speech, Hollande directly addresses the male-female pay gap in France (with a woman’s average salary almost 25% lower than a man’s). He insists companies will be made to enforce equal pay law effectively, and if they don’t comply they will lose tax benefits related to women’s jobs. This is a great idea in theory, but it remains to be tested in practise.

Hollande then addresses what he views to be the three biggest issues of inequality facing French women in today’s society – childcare, abortion rights and violence against women.

Firstly he talks about the need for more accessible childcare, especially when 80% of all part-time jobs are taken by women. He hopes that this would allow more women to find stable and full-time work without the worries of finding affordable childcare. There are no details as to how this would be financed.

The second proposal he announces on the subject of reproduction rights, however, is much bolder. He proposes to make abortions free through social security for every women, not just minors, and available in every medical facility in France. This is a big move for a country which did not legalize abortion until 1975 and will undoubtedly face opposition.

The third and final proposal seeks to help end violence against women. If elected, Hollande wants to make it legally possible for women to force violent partners out of the home in order to stabilize family life and housing for children and women in violent relationships.

Hollande may be able to talk the feminist talk, but it remains to be seen whether any of his great proposals will find support or funding. It is one thing to support women in pre-election speeches, but the real test will be to see what happens when he gets the keys to the office.

Read Hollande’s speech here, his proposals for contraception for minors here and the Guardian news feed for François Hollande here

“#ididnotreport” Crosses the Channel

In Crime, Movements, Society on March 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

*Trigger Warning*

On Twitter, the hashtag #ididnotreport began as a voice for rape victims (both male and female) to give their testimonies of unreported rape and sexual assault. The point being to highlight the number of unreported rapes and sexual assaults in the UK and worldwide.

According to Le Monde, the hashtag #jenaipasportéplainte (#ididnotreport ‘s French counterpart) was started on Twitter on the 22nd of March by the movement Femmes en Résistance. The hastag is accompanied by a wordpress blog entitled “pasdejusticepasdepaix” (No justice, no peace) which provides information on rapes and conviction rates in France.

Pasdejusticepasdepaix has documented some of the testimonies which have appeared on Twitter under #jenaipasportéplainte. What can be read is very harrowing, but shows, very sadly, the common experiences of rape and sexual assault victims who felt that they could not report what had happened because of fear or a sense of helplessness. It is estimated that of the rapes and sexual assaults that are committed in France each year, only 8% of victims report the assault or rape.

Pasdejusticepasdepaix has also begun a petition to raise awareness of the low report rate and conviction rates of rapes in France. The manifesto is thus, “We demand a broad reflection upon the running of our judicial system, so that it finally begins to abandon its patriarchal reactions, at all levels and to consider all means of protecting the victims of sexual violence: the children, women and men who go through hell on a daily basis.” (Nous demandons l’ouverture d’une vaste réflexion sur le fonctionnement de notre système judiciaire  pour qu’il commence, enfin, à tous les niveaux, à abandonner ses réflexes patriarcaux, et à envisager tous les moyens nécessaires pour protéger les victimes de violences sexuelles, enfants, femmes et hommes qui subissent l’enfer au quotidien.)

As of the 26th of March, there have been 1,406  on the petition.

Read Pasdejusticepasdepaix here, the petition here and the Le Monde article here.  

Pierrette Pape and the threat of Anti-feminism

In Movements, Politics on January 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Pierrette Pape. Image from Égalité Infos.

“More subtle are the daily attacks on the advances in women’s rights: tolerance for violence against women; the suspicion of the media just like the police or the justice system towards women who dare file a charge for rape (in citing examples of the way women dress…); the sexist remarks in the media or public sphere…”

These are the words of Pirette Pape, member of the European Women’s Lobby. Her role is as political officer and project coordinator for the lobby’s campaigns to end violence against women. In an interview with Égalité Infos she addresses  what she believes are the greatest challenges to women’s rights, not only in France but in Europe as a whole. Here are the highlights.

Firstly, Pape is asked about anti-feminism and movements aimed at stopping the progress of women’s rights.

“We have found several forms of anti-feminism, from the very obvious to the more subtle. The most obvious would be, for example, the existence of a congress with the clear intention of ‘eliminating’ feminism, like the claims of the organizers of the 2nd international anti-feminist meeting, in Switzerland in June 2011. Some divorced fathers associations, all proposing similar rhetoric, also deliver anti-feminist discourse by advancing, for example, statistics on male suicide in order to illustrate a ‘crisis of masculinity’.

Q: Does [anti-feminism] remain low-key or does it pose a real threat to feminism?

“What is problematic in this evolution is that ‘masculinist’* or anti-feminist discourses are received with a certain empathy in the public arena which allows anti-feminists to fulfil three objectives: to de-legitimize feminism, to blame women and to mobilize resources for men. It’s quite paradoxical in the current situation in terms of resources and decision-making: men continue to dominate in all sectors.”

The interview then continues on to discuss the role of men in equality politics and male feminist activists in women’s rights issues.

“During our research for the seminar, we found that Finland had, in 2007, implemented a policy of equality, including masculine issues and to involving men in achieving equality. This policy is based on international documents that focus on male involvement, whilst keeping in mind the fundamental objective of female autonomy in a context of male structural domination.

Pape then continues on to highlight male feminist initiatives and projects which she considers to be the best.

“Whilst contacting experts for our seminar, we discovered several initiatives of male feminists, be they researchers or activists. We also invited Matt McCormack Evans who founded the Anti-porn Men Project having been a campaigner in several feminist associations in Great Britain. The initiative of these young men against pornography was really novel and we wanted to know more about the motivations of these new feminists.

The survey also uncovered the project Free from violence, developed by the Swedish NGO Men for Gender equality aiming to prevent violence towards women by young men. The researchers from the start based their work on feminist analysis of social relations between the sexes, something that is a reliable gauge of a real desire to transform society.

The lobby is also a partner of male feminist groups such as  le réseau Zéro Macho (The Zero Macho Network) which supports our campaign of “Together for a Europe free of prostitution” (« Ensemble pour une Europe libérée de la prostitution »). In raising awareness of these politically engaged men, we’re creating a new image of feminism, diverse and rich, and constructing successful collaborations between women and men for a truly equal society. Men have everything to gain from a society built on a feminist vision! ”

No original texts of the French interview are included due to the length of it. Read the full interview (in French) here and read more about the work of the European Women’s Lobby here.

*No real English translation. Intended to be the name for a male equivalent of a feminist.

Male and Feminist: Égalité Infos Interviews Marc Tarabella

In Media, Politics on January 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Marc Tarabella. Image from egalite-infos.fr.

In recent weeks Egalite Infos has published a series of great interviews with high-profile male French and European feminists. Here are a few of the highlights from their interview with MEP Marc Tarabella.

Marc Tarabella is a MP in the Belgian socialist party who is also an European Minister and sits on the EU Parliament Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. He is one of only 5 men (out of 60 MEPs) who sit on the committee.

When asked how his male colleagues view his place on the committee, Tarabella says, “Some of my colleagues still politely make fun of me. They’re not nasty taunts, it just makes them smile.” (Certains de mes collègues se moquent encore gentiment de moi, ce ne sont pas des railleries méchantes, ça les fait juste sourire.)

In his daily and family life Tarabella tries to implement his feminist values just as much as in his professional role: “For me, there aren’t any differences between the sexes. At the start of our marriage, my first wife was a lawyer. She earnt more than me, but it didn’t bother me. I know many men who wouldn’t have stood for it. I was also unemployed for three months and I did [my wife’s] secretarial work. In the evenings it was me who made the dinners. And also with my children (I have a son and a daughter) I try to be egalitarian.”  (Pour moi, il n’y a pas de différences entre les sexes. Au début de notre mariage, ma première femme qui est avocate, gagnait plus que moi, cela ne me gênait pas. Je connais de nombreux hommes qui ne l’auraient pas supporté. J’ai même été au chômage pendant trois mois et je faisais son secrétariat. Le soir, c’est moi qui faisais à manger. Et puis avec mes enfants, j’ai un garçon et une fille, j’essaye d’être égalitaire.)

So what does Marc Tarabella consider to be the big issues for women’s rights? “For me, the most fundamental struggle is against violence against women. It is a tragedy which also affects children. We are pushing member states to get more involved. It’s Spain who has done the most in this domain with a framework law.” (Pour moi la lutte la plus fondamentale est celle contre les violences faites aux femmes. C’est un drame qui rejaillit d’ailleurs aussi sur les enfantsNous poussons les Etats membres à s’impliquer davantage. C’est l’Espagne qui en Europe a fait le plus en ce domaine avec une loi-cadre.)

Legislation to support women who are victims of violence is on the way and the Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is working hard to raise awareness of these issues.  Tarabella comments, ” I am the co-author of a declaration to make 2013 the European Year against violence towards women. We want to set up a large campaign which would include the exchange of practises.”(Je suis co-auteur d’une déclaration visant à faire de 2013, l’Année européenne contre les violences faites aux femmes. Nous voudrions mettre en place une vaste campagne qui comporterait des échanges de bonnes pratiques.)

There are several notable initiatives which are expected to be presented as ‘best practises’ to be copied in other states.  Tarabella continues, “It already exists in Belgium, as in several countries, ‘The White Ribbon Campaign’, an initiative of men who are against violence towards women. I feel close to this initiative because it is men who are responsible for this violence.” (Il existe en Belgique, comme dans de nombreux pays, « la campagne du ruban blanc », une initiative d’hommes qui s’engagent contre les violences faites aux femmes. Je me sens proche de cette initiative car ce sont les hommes qui sont les responsables de ces violences.)

For more information read the original interview (in French) here and Marc Tarabella’s profile on the official EU website (in English) here.