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French activists are protesting in an attempt to end femicide for good

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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Hundreds of people flocked to Paris to protest rates of violence against women. 

Despite the heatwaves rocking France, hundreds of people gathered in the centre of Paris this weekend to protest the increasing rates of femicide in the country.

Figures from France’s Interior Ministry suggest the problem of femicide – which is violence perpetrated against women because of their gender – is escalating.

In 2017, 130 women – one every three days – were recorded to have been killed by their husband or partner. In 2016, that number was 123. Already this year, French feminist groups say 74 women have been victims of femicide, with four deaths alone this week. To mark the fatalities, demonstrators observed 74 seconds of silence to pay tribute to victims.  

“It’s a massacre,” said actress Julie Gayet who is also the partner of former French President Francois Hollande.

“We need to raise awareness on what’s happening today, which means that despite society’s evolution, there’s a step backward, and even more women are dying today.”

Women’s rights in France have come under particular scrutiny recently; gender equality was one of the key issues President Emmanuel Macron included in his platform for office, promising to tackle deep rooted inequity in the country. 

Although progress has been made – France is now one of only six countries in the world to entrench equal pay within the law – campaigners say more must be done to protect women in the country. Rape convictions have dropped by 40% in the country since 2007 yet reports of sexual violence have risen by 20% in the wake of #MeToo.  

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Meanwhile, eight out of 10 French women relate having experienced a form of sexual assault in public and 76% say they’ve been harassed on the street. In 2018, a new law came into effect that saw fines handed out for sexual aggression, with the first man found guilty under the new legislation fined 300 euros (£270) for slapping a 21-year-old’s bottom and commenting on her breasts.

The anti-femicide protests hope to talk tackle the culture that makes this behaviour possible and they have the support of senior figures in the French parliament.

In the wake of the protests, Secretary of Gender Equality, Marlène Schippa announced a new government initiative, Grenelle Violences Conjugales, to tackle domestic violence head on.

“France must pull itself together in the face of the scourge of femicide,” she tweeted. “We are counting on everyone’s mobilisation.” 

Promising words – now to see the action.

Images: Getty

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Moya Lothian-McLean

Moya Lothian-McLean is a freelance writer with an excessive amount of opinions. She tweets @moya_lm.

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