Minister says accusations of sexual harassment are politically motivated
Police in France are investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against French junior minister Georges Tron, who is also Mayor of the town of Draveil, just outside Paris. The minister denies the accusations, declaring that the case is "an attempt to create an echo of an affair taking place on the other side of the Atlantic", a reference to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case in New York.
Two female former employees at the Town Hall offices in Draveil allege that Georges Tron sexually harassed them on several occasions between 2007 and 2010.
Tron is well-known for his interest in holistic medicine, particularly reflexology, and he had learned how to do therapeutic foot massages.
The women, a 34 and a 36 year old, say that he used such massages to take advantage of them, and their lawyer declares that both later tried to commit suicide.
AVFT, a Paris-based group whose aim is to protect women from violence in the workplace, says it received a "credible" complaint about Tron from one of the two employees concerned in November, months before the Strauss-Kahn affair.
Gwendoline Fiziane of AVFT said the woman was "extremely afraid of the consequences" of pressing charges, but that AVFT had taken formal statements from both women and put them in contact with the group's lawyers.
Georges Tron maintains the allegations are politically motivated, and points to the fact that the lawyer for the two women, Gilbert Collard, is a close friend of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right Front National party.
Tron has been engaged in a long-running battle over a housing project which is opposed by Marine Le Pen's brother in law, Philippe Olivier.
On Thursday Marine Le Pen hit back at accusations that she was behind a smear campaign, telling RFI: "I find that very serious and from today I am suing Mr Tron for defamation."
Georges Tron is also a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, and minister in charge of the civil service in the current government.
Many commentators are now wondering whether the repercussions of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair will prompt more cases of sexual harassment in France.
The affair has led to comparisons between attitudes to women in the workplace in France and the United States.
Until now, the French have generally prided themselves on having a more relaxed approach to relationships between the sexes. Many were critical of what they perceived as an over-policing of male-female rapports in Anglo-Saxon cultures.
It's possible that many women who felt the climate unfavourable to allegations of sexual harassment might now try to take their complaints to the police.
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