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France

Nantes school students defy right-wing protesters on 'skirt day'

"No to gender theory!" reads a banner on an anti-gay marriage demonstration in February
"No to gender theory!" reads a banner on an anti-gay marriage demonstration in February Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Schoolboys in the western French city of Nantes defied right-wing demonstrators by going to school in skirts on Friday. Gay marriage opponents claimed that a day devoted to combating sexism was part of a homosexual plot to deny the difference between the sexes.

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On Thursday 150 people linked to the Manif pour tous movement, which opposed the legalisation of gay marriage last year, protested outside the school, leading to a stand-off with about 100 school students who accused them of being fascists.

The protest came after a group calling itself Les Nantais pour la famille (Nantes pro-family) reported that a “skirt day” had been organised at the school, illustrating some of its postings with photos of bearded transvestite Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst.

Conservative social networks spread the story with many implying that the initiative applied to all the city’s high schools and came from the education ministry.

It then hit the national press, notably right-wing dailyLe Figaro and MPs from the opposition UMP party quizzed Education Minister Benoît Hamon about it in parliament.

In reality the proposal that male and female pupils be allowed to wear skirts to school on the day came from students’ representatives when they were asked to make suggestions for activities to excite debate on discrimination against girls and women.

It was taken up by 27 of Nantes’s 220 schools this year, having gone ahead without incident in about a dozen in 2013.

The Lycée Clémenceau in Nantes was targeted by the move’s opponents with graffiti sprayed on its entrance and protest on Thursday and Friday.

About 100 boys came to school in skirts or kilts on Friday, as did several girls.

In January conservative groups claimed that the education system was propagating “gender theory”, an ideology supposedly imported from the US that was said to claim that differences between the sexes are socially acquired.

Demonstrators on Thursday were heard to shout “No to gender!” in reference to the idea.

Background: French schools face boycott over 'gender theory' scare
 

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