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France’s new government a ‘slap in the face’ for feminists, senator says

Feminist protesters raise their fist next to a banner reading 'Darmanin at the Interior ministry: you don't care about our complaints' during a demonstration against the nomination of Gerald Darmanin as French Interior Minister in Paris on July 7, 2020 following a Cabinet reshuffle.
Feminist protesters raise their fist next to a banner reading 'Darmanin at the Interior ministry: you don't care about our complaints' during a demonstration against the nomination of Gerald Darmanin as French Interior Minister in Paris on July 7, 2020 following a Cabinet reshuffle. AFP - GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

Feminists in France have expressed outrage over the appointment of a man accused of rape as interior minister, and a vocal opponent of a law against street harassment as justice minister. Senator Laurence Rossignol called the appointments a “formidable slap” at women.

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Feminist militants protested outside the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday as Gérald Darmanin officially took up his post as interior minister.

With raised fists they chanted "Darmanin resign" and held banners reading "you don't care about our complaints" in reference to the ongoing investigation into accusations of rape against him.

Videos on social media showed the police moving in quickly to disperse the protestors.

 

Darmanin, 37, is accused by a woman of having raped her after she sought his help in having a criminal record expunged.

Last month, appeals judges in Paris ordered the reopening of an investigation into the claims which date from 2009.

As interior minister, Darmanin would, technically-speaking, now be in charge of his own investigation.

An Elysee source told AFP that the rape complaint made against him did not "pose an obstacle" to his nomination and that the case appeared to be "going in the right direction" for him.

Two ministers in the firing line

Many feminists took to social media to denounce Darminin's appointment using the hashtag #DarmaninDemission (Darmanin resign).

Osez le féminisme wondered on Twitter how you can "imagine for a moment that the fight against gender-based and sexual violence can advance with a rapist and a masculinist, adding the government was shameful.

Leading feminist activist Caroline de Haas ironised on how Emmanuel Macron had made gender equality a "grand cause" of his presidency. 

"Darmanin at the interior. Dupond-Moretti at justice. Not exactly the Grand Cause of this five-year term," she tweeted. 

The appointment of Dupond-Moretti as justice minister also raised many an eyebrow among defenders of women's rights.

The maverick and controversial lawyer famously opposed the new law on street harassment and has been scathing of the #MeToo movement.

He successfully defended George Tron, a former secretary of state and mayor, who was accused of rape and sexual assault. 

Renowned for his skills in the courtroom, his sexist declarations are also legion: “It is all well and good that women’s voices are free, but you are preparing a curious way of life for future generations,” he told the European Association against violence against women in the workplace (AVFT).

“Some women regret no longer being cat-called,” he claimed in his critique of the new law against harassment in the street.

A slap in the face

Several MPs also voiced concerns about the two appointments.

It's “a formidable slap in the face, from Macron, for all those who have mobilised against sexual and sexist violence,” Socialist senator and former family minister Laurence Rossignol  told France Info on Tuesday.

While acknowledging Darmanin benefited from the principle of presumption of innocence she said it was "there was a huge problem because at the very least these two men are not remotely committed to these subjects".

"At one time, when you were accused […] you left the government to defend yourself,” David Cormand, Green MEP told CNews.

“In this case, you get a promotion. It’s a deplorable message to send out to all the victims [of sexual violence] who’ve filed complaints.”

 

 

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