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France unveils plan to halt violence against women

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Paris (AFP)

France on Monday announced new measures to combat violence against women by their partners or ex-partners, seeking to toughen up the law as concern grows over the number of femicide murders in the country.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made the announcements on the UN-backed International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women, two days after tens of thousands had taken to the streets across France in a show of solidarity.

Expressing hope that the plan would prove an "electric shock", he said the measures would seek to broaden the definition of violence, including how harassment can lead to suicide.

Since the start of 2019, at least 117 women have been killed by their partner or ex-partner in France, according to a case-by-case study by AFP based on media reports.

The figure shows no improving trend -- last year, 121 women lost their lives in femicides.

Meanwhile each year, 213,000 women are victims of physical and or sexual violence on the part of their partner or ex-partner, according to the latest official figures.

The announcements by Philippe focussed on ending what he described as "absurdities" and "dysfunctional aspects" in the law to ensure that women would be better protected.

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

And in a measure that has been widely called for, Philippe said that the rules covering medical confidentiality would be changed making it easier for doctors to signal to the authorities when a person is at risk of violence.

He said that the new measures would be inscribed in a new bill that ruling party lawmakers will put to the French parliament in January and the plans would benefit from 360 million euros ($400 million) of annual funding.

Tens of thousands of people marched across France on Saturday in actions organised by the feminist group #NousToutes (All of Us) to demand an end to violence against women.

"We marched to make clear our anger. And to demand measures and means that are at the right level. It is now up to the government to act," #NousToutes said afterwards.

Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa vowed in interview with the Figaro newspaper that funds would be available for all the new measures while emphasising that the "fight against marital violence is not just a question of money".

The intense study conducted by AFP of every case of femicide in France this week showed up repeated trends, including the failure of the authorities to act on warning signs of the potential for violence.

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