Monday, 18 October 2021

French women demand action amid high domestic violence rate

FILE – In this Oct.19, 2019 file photo, women hold placards with the names of women killed by their partners, during a protest, in Paris. France, a country that has prided itself on gender equality, is beginning to pay serious attention to its yet-intractable problem of domestic violence. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

LES MUREAUX: Sylvia. Dalila. Aminata. Céline. Julie. Their names are plastered on buildings and headlines across France, calling attention to their shared fate: Each was killed, allegedly by a current or former partner this year.

More than 130 women have died from domestic violence this year alone in France, according to activists who track the deaths.

European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers. And frustrated activists have drawn national attention to a problem President Emmanuel Macron has called “France’s shame.”

Under cover of night, activists have glued posters with the names of the dead and calls to action to French city walls. “Complaints ignored, women killed,” read the black block letters on one such sign. They have also posted anti-violence slogans, tagged with Macron’s name. By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death.

Two years after Macron made a campaign pledge to tackle the problem, his centrist French government has begun to act. A Justice Ministry report released earlier this month acknowledged authorities’ systematic failure to intervene to prevent domestic violence slayings. On Monday, the government will announce measures that are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence, prioritizing police training and formally recognizing “psychological violence” as a form of domestic violence.

Women are not the only victims of domestic violence, but French officials say they make up the vast majority. Lawyers and victims’ advocates say women are too often disbelieved or turned away by French law enforcement. But they’re encouraged by the new national conversation, which they say marks a departure from decades of denial.

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