Women's rights groups protest French ministers' appointments

1010 WINS Newsroom
July 07, 2020 - 10:00 am

Newly appointed Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, center, talks to police officers during a visit of a police headquarters in Les Mureaux, outside Paris, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Former budget minister Darmanin was named to replace Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who had come under fire amid widespread French protests against racial injustice and police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd in the United States. (Thomas Samson, Pool via AP)

PARIS (AP) — Women’s rights groups are protesting French President Emmanuel Macron’s appointment of an interior minister who has been accused of rape and a justice minister who has criticized the #MeToo movement.

Feminist activists held two small protests Tuesday in Paris, saying the appointments fly in the face of Macron’s promises to make equality between women and men the “Great Cause” of his five-year term.

“Macron is sending a loud and violent message to all society and to woman victims: he is taking away the legitimacy of the words of all those who had the strength and courage to speak out about violence they suffered,” organizers of one protest said in an online appeal.

The new interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, is under preliminary investigation over a rape accusation that he firmly denies. Macron’s office said the probe was “not an obstacle” to Darmanin’s appointment to a job that puts him in charge of police and other law enforcement bodies.

The investigation is based on a 2017 legal complaint by a woman who says Darmanin raped her when she sought legal help from him in 2009. Darmanin, the highest-ranking French official accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, says the encounter was consensual, and sued the woman for slander.

Women’s rights groups are also angry over the appointment of provocative lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti as justice minister. Among his clients have been a former French government member accused of rape, suspected terrorists and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

As the #MeToo movement encouraged women around the world to speak out about past sexual misconduct by powerful men, Dupond-Moretti criticized “crazy women” who “crucify” men on social networks. He also ridiculed the world’s first law against catcalls and other street harassment, passed in France in 2018.

In his government reshuffle Monday, Macron replaced the high-profile women’s rights minister behind that law, Marlene Schiappa, who will now work under Darmanin in a new role focusing on citizenship questions.

At Tuesday’s first protest, near the president’s Elysee Palace and the Interior Ministry, about 20 mostly masked demonstrators waved sparklers, raised their fists and chanted for the ministers’ resignation. A group of male police officers pushed them back.

Several dozen protesters gathered later near the Justice Ministry for a symbolic “burial” of Macron’s promises that fighting sexism and sexist violence would be the “Great Cause” of his term.

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