Call for national emergency plan to combat 'sexism' in France

Authorities need to target male attitudes 'from a very young age' including 'massive action' in education, and more stringent regulation of the online sphere, says HCE president Pierre-Brossolette


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Women and activists march to mark International Women's Day in Paris on March 8, 2021.  — AP file
Women and activists march to mark International Women's Day in Paris on March 8, 2021. — AP file

Published: Mon 23 Jan 2023, 6:19 PM

Sexism remains at an "alarming" level in France with many young men judging discriminatory or violent behaviour against women to be acceptable, a report published Monday found.

Based on a study of 2,500 people France's High Authority on Equality (HCE), a consultative body, found that while most respondents bemoaned sexism in principle, "they fail to reject it in practice".

French people had become more aware of gender inequality, partly thanks to the #MeToo movement, but "bias and gender stereotypes, sexist cliches and everyday sexism are still commonplace", it said

"The report shows a French society that remains deeply sexist in all its spheres," the HCE said.

Some of sexism's most violent manifestations were actually getting worse, it said, especially for the younger generation.

While older men often remained stuck in conservative views on male and female roles in society, younger men sometimes displayed aggressively macho tendencies, the report said.

Some 20 per cent of men between 25 and 34 years polled said bragging about sexual exploits was needed to "be respected as a man in society", while 23 per cent said that men "sometimes need to use violence to get respect".

While most men over 65 judged that the image of women in pornography was "problematic", only 48 per cent of men aged 15-34 years thought so.

Some 80 per cent of women questioned said, meanwhile, that they thought they had been "less well treated" in their lives because of their gender.

Fourteen per cent said they had had a sexual act forced on them, and 37 per cent said they had lived some sexual situation to which they had not consented.

A quarter of the men in the report downplayed sexual violence, saying that "too much attention is being paid to sexual assaults".

The HCE said it had detected a male "backlash" across French society, with "macho raids" on social media seeking "to reduce women to silence or discredit them".

New forms of sexual targeting were making things worse for many women, the report found, citing online violence, verbal abuse on social media and porn productions with "barbaric" content.

HCE president Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette said the authorities needed to target male attitudes "from a very young age", including "massive action" in education, and more stringent regulation of the online sphere.

"Everyday sexism leads to violent sexism," Pierre-Brossolette told AFP.

She also called for the creation of a public independent high authority to fight sexist violence in politics, and more financial and human resources to combat domestic violence.

The HCE also recommended a ban on gendered toys for children and making public subsidies for companies contingent on progress in terms of equality.

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