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French education minister to scrap controversial gender-equality programme, reports

French Education Minister Benoît Hamon
French Education Minister Benoît Hamon AFP

France’s Socialist government is to make another climbdown in the face of right-wing family-values campaigners with the scrapping of a gender-equality programme in the country’s schools, French media report.

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Education Minister Benoît Hamon will announce on Monday the end of the ABCD of Equality, a programme to combat inequality between girls and boys that was supposed to be extended to all France’s schools between 2013 and 2018, Le Monde reported on Saturday.

Women's rights in France - given or taken?

The programme has been tried out in 275 of France’s 48,000 schools since last autumn and, according to Le Monde, 75 per cent of teachers involved wanted to continue with it.

But far-right agitators, fired up by last year’s massive demonstrations against gay marriage, claimed that it was smuggling “gender theory” that supposedly claims that differences between the sexes are socially acquired into the syllabus.

They organised a boycott of schools over the question in January.

“I want to calms things down,” Hamon told France Culture radio on Wednesday, claiming that the debate had fixated on the “container rather than the content”.

So, according to Le Monde and earlier report in the right-wing magazine L’Express, the ABCD of Equality, hailed by Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem as a “wonderful experiment” on Thursday, is to be abandoned.

Hamon, who told France Culture that he found the word “experiment” worrying in the educational context, insists that the government will continue to try to combat gender inequality through education but would change its methods, concentrating on training teachers but allowing them “pedagogical freedom”.

Following L’Express’s report feminist and gay-rights groups published an appeal for the extension of the ABCD of Equality to all schools in Le Monde and the SOS Education campaign submitted a 40,000-signature petition supporting it to the ministry.

Although the government pressed on with legalising gay marriage, it persuaded Socialist MPs to drop an amendment to the law that would have allowed medically assisted procreation and watered down its family law, which did not prevent the right fighting it in parliament before it was passed this week.

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