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Outrage over ‘femicides’ draws hundreds to the streets of Paris

Martin Bureau, AFP | Protesters at Place de la République in Paris on July 6, 2019.

More than 1000 protesters gathered in Paris Saturday, demanding tougher government measures to prevent men from killing their wives, girlfriends, partners or former partners.

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France has registered more than 70 alleged “femicides” so far this year, according to a Facebook group tracking them, up from official numbers in previous years. A growing number of voices are demanding action, including closing judicial loopholes that have allowed authorities to ignore warnings.

“We are calling on the interior minister to convene all the regional prefects and make sure that no woman will ever walk into a police station and have someone reject her request to file a complaint,” said Caroline De Haas, one of the protest organizers.

“Why do you stay silent? Femicides aren’t an inevitability. We don’t have any more time, we want answers now,” she said.

The protesters observed 74 seconds of “noise and anger” to mark the 74 alleged femicides reported this year.

Such killings often involve women who had already reported their attackers to police. A former women’s rights minister is demanding an internal government investigation into how police handled the cases.

In January, a man stabbed and killed his ex-wife, 34-year-old Gülçin Kaplan, in broad daylight. Kaplan had filed five complaints against her former partner.

“I ask the president … How much is a woman’s life worth in 2019?” demanded Muriel Robin, an actress who has been active in combating domestic abuse, at Saturday’s demonstration.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron declared that gender equality would be a key issue of his presidency. Last October, the French government announced five measures to combat domestic violence. It created an online platform to help victims report abuse, reinforced funding for a domestic violence hotline, and launched a TV campaign to raise awareness around the issue.

Critics say that the measures don’t go far enough, however. Protesters at Paris’s Place de la République called for more measures to restrain abusive men and more shelters for abused women. Some want every police station to include a specialist in handling violence against women.

In an opinion piece published Thursday in French daily Le Monde, a group of 28 women’s rights advocates including De Haas also demanded that the government open hundreds more beds in women’s shelters, saying that the current number of available beds does not meet European Union standards.

On Friday, 150 senators published another piece in  left-wing daily Libération, describing the rate of femicides this year as “unacceptable.”

Macron’s government has promised it will continue its efforts to protect women from abuse. In a tweet, Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of Equality between women and men, told the protesters she “shared their anger”.

According to the French Interior Ministry, more than 80 percent of victims of fatal domestic violence are women. The ministry recorded 130 women killed by their partners or ex-partners in 2017, down from 123 in 2016.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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