French press review 30 January 2014

French papers are reporting on rumours about an education ministry directive on gender stereotypes which led to a boycott of some schools.


Centre-left Le Monde reports today on the scare which has led some parents to boycott schools in France. Hundreds of parents kept their children out of school this week, following rumours about a new government program aimed at combating gender stereotypes.

Conservative Catholics and Muslims struck an unlikely union, prompting the Minister of Education and the government's spokesperson to address the issue.

Le Monde reports on the mysterious text message families received calling for action, allegedly sent be a right-wing group.

Peppered with triple exclamation marks, it reads: "Either we accept that our children are taught how to masturbate in kindergarden and that they can choose whether they want to be a girl or a boy - or we defend their future."

No wonder that this had parents a little worried. A hundred schools out of France's 48 000 were affected, and the debate continues - even after teaching staff reassured parents and reminded them that school attendance after the age of six isn't optional.

Right-wing Le Figaro runs with the headline "Gender Theory: Peillon on the defensive," Peillon being the Minister of Education. The paper reports that the French Muslim Council, alarmed by various rumours, has asked government to explain its programme.

Communist paper L'Humanité dismisses conservative concerns, calling them in a little play on words "mauvais genre" - that translates to bad sport but literally means bad gender.

The paper blames the extreme nationalist party, the Front National, for spreading misinformation and sparking what it calls a delirious debate.

Left-wing Libération takes a hard look at France's military intervention in the Central African Republic, where the paper claims bloodthirsty Christians are sweeping the countryside for revenge and French troops rarely leave the safety of their tanks.

Today's issue is, by the way, completely illustrated with cartoons and comic strips to celebrate the international comic book festival which starts today in Angouleme, in southern France.

On the eve of President Francois Hollande's visit to the UK, Catholic daily La Croix wonders about the future of the EU. David Cameron will likely be dodging France's stifling embrace, as his country has serious doubts about its commitment to the rest of the continent. La Croix imagines an apocalyptic scenario if the UK were to exit the EU, with three million jobs lost and serious business losses as well.

Les Echos has an interview with Peter Hartz, once councillor to Germany’s former Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. Hartz is widely credited with persuading Schroeder to implement Germany’s key structural reforms in the early 2000s. Hollande met up with Hartz a few weeks ago to discuss his own economic and social programme for France - it's possible that Hartz is the real brainchild behind Hollande's so-called Responsibility Pact, which asks businesses to create jobs in return for being relieved of some social security payments. The financial daily says that with unemployment still staggeringly high, the government should take Hartz's credo seriously: "Some work is better than no work at all."

Le Figaro also brings us an exclusive on law and order in France. French police have drafted a report to the Interior Minister stating their view that they can’t do their job if France’s legal system isn’t there to back them. The government has restricted the use of GPS tracking, and is set to propose judicial reforms that lighten short-term prison sentences. So while French police want to see more people behind bars, the Ministry of Justice is trying to slash the country’s large prison population. Le Figaro warns that “Rebellion is nigh among the ranks of the police.”


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