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Domestic abuse

French government promises tough laws to protect women against domestic violence

Participants in Saturday's Paris protest calling for an end to violence against women. The main placard reads "We demand justice for our mothers, murdered by the patriarchy!" .
Participants in Saturday's Paris protest calling for an end to violence against women. The main placard reads "We demand justice for our mothers, murdered by the patriarchy!" . RFI / Raphëlle Constant
4 min

This is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe marked the occasion by announcing tough new legal measures to protect victims and potential victims.

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Saying that the time had come to take action, the prime minister unveiled government moves intended to serve as an electric shock, by seeking to broaden the definition of violence.

The announcement by Philippe focussed on ending what he described as "absurdities" and "dysfunctional aspects" in the law, with a view to ensuring that women are better protected.

The notion of psychological "entrapment" is to be written into the law as this can also lead to violence, the prime minister told reporters in Paris.

Philippe said that the rules covering medical confidentiality will be changed to make it easier for doctors to inform the authorities when a woman is at risk of violence.

He said that the measures will be part of a new bill that ruling party lawmakers will put to the French parliament in January. The plans will benefit from 360 million euros of annual funding.

Treat the root causes of violence

In total, forty new measures are proposed, with a view to treating the root causes of violence at the earliest possible stage.

One fact underlined by the head of government is that, since the public debate on family violence opened in September, the number of emergency calls from women at risk has increased from 150 every day to the current level of 600 calls daily.

Edouard Philippe says the 40 proposals address three main aims: the first is educative, to ensure that first the teachers and then the kids are aware of the basics of sexual equality.

The second major axis is protective, ensuring that victims and their children are immediately taken in charge by the authorities.

The third aim is to ensure the proper treatment and management of the perpetrators.

What about the money?

Le Monde says the proposals are welcome, but regrets that the budgetary support for the government plan may fall short of requirements.

The government’s own Equality Commission last year estimated that between 500 million and one billion euros would be needed to finance an efficient campaign against violence against women.

Unfortunately, even the 360 million mentioned by Edouard Philippe this morning is mostly already committed to other development programmes. Le Monde estimates that the total amount of new money brought to the fight against sexual violence is no more than 30 million euros, hardly enough to satisfy protestors, certainly not enough to fund an ambitious plan for the future.

Thousands take part in Paris protests

On Saturday, an estimated 150,000 people took part in marches across France, calling for an end to the violence which has seen at least 116 women murdered so far this year by their husband, partner or ex-partner.

The Paris protest attracted 49,000 participants, and was hailed by organisers as "the biggest march against gender-based violence in French history".

Footballers in Italy took to the pitch for Saturday’s match between Juventus and Atalanta with a red streak on their cheeks as part of an initiative targeting domestic violence against women.

In Italy, 142 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2018, according to Italian research institute Eures.

In the last five years, 538,000 women have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse by their partners, according to Italy's national statistics agency.

These figures for two supposedly civilised European nations are part of a global scourge that shows no signs of abating, with 87,000 women and girls killed in 2017 according to the UN -- over half of them the victims of either their spouse, partner or members of their own family.

There was a similar demonstration in the Belgian capital, Brussels, on Sunday, with 10,000 participants.

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