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French feminists criticise choice of justice, interior ministers over sexism and rape claims

Many French feminists reacted strongly on Monday evening to the appointments of Gérald Darmanin as interior minister – who has been accused of rape – and Éric Dupond-Moretti – who has been accused of making sexist remarks – as justice minister in President Emmanuel Macron’s revamped cabinet.
Many French feminists reacted strongly on Monday evening to the appointments of Gérald Darmanin as interior minister – who has been accused of rape – and Éric Dupond-Moretti – who has been accused of making sexist remarks – as justice minister in President Emmanuel Macron’s revamped cabinet. © Thomas Samson and Gérard Julien, AFP
Text by: Romain BRUNET
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3 min

French feminists have reacted strongly to the appointment on Monday of Gérald Darmanin as interior minister and Éric Dupond-Moretti as minister of justice in France’s reshuffled government. Dupond-Moretti has been accused of making sexist remarks while judges last year ordered that an investigation be reopened into rape allegations against Darmanin.

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Several feminists started expressing their dismay on social media soon after the appointments were announced on Monday.

“How can you imagine for one moment that the fight against gender-based and sexual violence will be advanced with the appointment of a rapist at the interior ministry and a sexist at the justice ministry? This government is a disgrace,” tweeted the activist group Osez le féminisme (Dare to be feminist).

Darmanin will take on one of France’s highest-profile jobs as interior minister, a dossier that promises to be challenging as the police force faces allegations of racism and violence while others criticise Macron’s government for not doing enough to support the authorities.

Darmanin has been accused of raping a woman after she sought his help in having a criminal record expunged in 2009. He has denied the claims – Darmanin admitted having sexual intercourse with the complainant but insisted that relations were consensual – and the charges were dismissed in 2018. But in November 2019 judges ordered the investigation to be reopened, with a new inquiry that started on June 11.

FEMEN protest at Élysée Palace

On Tuesday morning, around 20 feminist activists gathered outside the interior ministry in Paris with smoke bombs, protesting Darmanin ascension to his new role with chants of, “Darmanin, rapist” and “Darmanin, resign”.

Later the same day, three members of the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN burst into the Élysée Palace shortly before the new government’s first cabinet meeting, shouting accusations that the government had chosen a “sexist reshuffle”. Police soon arrested the topless demonstrators. “The #FEMEN activists came before the Council of Ministers to express their sincere condolences to the French Republic,” tweeted Inna Shevchenko, the group’s leader in France.

“I think opposing these appointments will be our great cause for the remainder of Macron’s term,” tweeted well-known feminist activist Caroline de Haas, in the first of several social media posts in which she criticised remarks by Éric Dupond-Moretti that she deemed sexist.

The famous lawyer came under fire from many quarters during his high-profile defence of Georges Tron, a former member of cabinet, on charges of rape and sexual assault brought by two municipal employees. Upon Tron’s acquittal in 2018, Dupond-Moretti called his accusers “inconsistent, manipulative”.    

The lawyer has also targeted feminist groups, including the European Association on Violence against Women at Work (l'Association européenne contre les violences faites aux femmes au travail). 

Dupond-Moretti has acknowledged that "there are predatory men" but said there are also "women who are attracted to power, who like it". By way of example, he cited a hypothetical "starlet who wants to succeed and says to herself, ‘I'm going to sleep [with him]’; 'This is a ‘couch promotion'." 

On Monday evening, many were quoting other remarks made by Dupond-Moretti, including his belief that “some women regret not being whistled at” and a lament that actions that would have been considered a misdemeanour in his youth are now considered crimes. He has also been known to observe that, "At 30, a woman is not a bimbo unable to say no to a man."

These two appointments are a “slap in the face” by Macron against “everyone who has campaigned against gender-based violence”, Laurence Rossingol, a former Socialist minister for the family, told France Info news on Tuesday. “It’s a very big problem, especially because neither of the two has made a public commitment to tackling such violence.”

However, Élysée Palace sources said on Monday night that the allegations of rape against Darmanin are “not an obstacle” to his appointment as interior minister.

This article was adapted from the original in French.

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