Defending minister accused of rape, Macron warns against ‘judgement by social media’
French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his decision to put a man accused of rape in charge of the nation’s police forces, citing the presumption of innocence and warning that France should not adopt the “worst of Anglo-Saxon society”.
Questioned about the rape allegation during a Bastille Day interview on Tuesday, Macron became agitated, saying: “There is the presumption of innocence. ... No cause can be fairly defended if you do so by ignoring the principles of our democracy.”
His decision last week to appoint Gérald Darmanin as interior minister, a position sometimes referred to in France as “top cop”, has infuriated French feminists who have staged several protests in recent days.
Darmanin, who defected from the conservative Les Républicains party to serve in Macron’s government, 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, insisting that relations were consensual.
The charges were initially dismissed in 2018, but last November judges ordered the case to be reopened. A new investigation is currently underway.
In his interview on Tuesday, Macron pledged to continue pushing for tougher measures against sexual violence and for gender equality, insisting he “shares the feminist cause”.
However, he cautioned that justice should run its course and that no one should become “the victim of a judgment by the street and social networks".
France, he added, shouldn’t adopt the “worst of Anglo-Saxon society”.
'Slap in the face'
French feminist groups want Darmanin to resign, saying the appointment is a blow to victims of sexual violence and contradicts Macron’s promises to make gender equality a “great cause” of his presidency.
They’re also angry at the appointment of new Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who has ridiculed the #MeToo movement and the “crazy” women who “crucify” men on social media.
A former lawyer, Dupond-Moretti has also dismissed the world’s first law against catcalls and other street harassment, passed in France in 2018, as a “joke”.
In his recent cabinet reshuffle, Macron replaced the high-profile women’s rights minister behind that law, Marlène Schiappa. She will now work under Darmanin in a new role focusing on citizenship.
The appointments of Darmanin and Dupond-Moretti are a “slap in the face” against “everyone who has campaigned against gender-based violence”, Laurence Rossignol, a former Socialist minister for the family, told French media last week.
“It’s a very big problem, especially because neither of the two has made a public commitment to tackling such violence,” Rossignol added.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
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