Thuram honoured by France amid dark claims

Lilian Thuram has had quite a week. It emerged at the weekend, the football hero and symbol of French multiculturalism had been accused of domestic violence by his long term partner. Then, just days later, he was honoured and lavished with praise by the French President.

Thuram honoured by France amid dark claims
Lilian Thuram and his then partner Karine Le Marchand. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

Who is Lilian Thuram?

A 41-year-old retired footballer, France’s most-capped international ever, a hero from the glorious 1998 World Cup campaign, who has since become an anti-racism activist. He was born in Guadeloupe.

Why is he in the news this week?

For a few different reasons. On Saturday, a French gossip magazine revealed his partner, TV presenter Karine Le Marchand, had filed a police complaint against the former footballer for domestic violence.

Later that day, it emerged that Le Marchand, 45, had since withdrawn the charge.

Then on Tuesday, Thuram became a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, personally receiving the title – the highest France can award – from President François Hollande.

Between Saturday morning and Tuesday evening, then, Thuram went from sporting hero and beloved symbol of French multiculturalism, to an alleged wife-beater, to then being the nation's hero once again.

Tell me more

Well, the first signs of a breakdown between Thuram and Le Marchand came last Tuesday, when she appeared on Virgin Radio in France, for a seemingly straightforward and fluffy interview to promote her show “L’amour est dans le pré,” the French version of “Farmer Wants a Wife.”

Asked a seemingly innocuous question about how a successful romantic relationship works, Le Marchand clammed up and stuttered while the radio host said: “I sense a malaise – is it finished between you and Lilian?”

She responded, “Let’s just say I don’t want to say any more about that.”

The French celebrity media’s rumour mill went into overdrive after this, until Closer magazine – which gained global infamy last year for publishing topless photos of Kate Middleton – revealed there was much more to the Thuram-Le Marchand break-up than met the eye.

Lilian Thuram receives an embrace from French President François Hollande, while being awarded the Legion d'Honneur in Paris on September 17th. Photo: Etienne Laurent/AFP

Why exactly did they break up?

Le Marchand claimed in the September 14th issue of Closer that Thuram had “pulled her around by her hair,” and “pushed her against the fridge on three occasions,” and that on September 4th she had gone to a police station in the capital's 16th arrondissement to file a complaint for domestic violence.

Le Marchand’s lawyer Caroline Mecary told AFP later on Saturday, after Closer hit the shelves, that the two had been “separated for months.”

Mecary added, however, that since September 4th, LeMarchand had “taken steps to withdraw her complaint” against Thuram.

It seemed then that the serious accusations against Thuram have been removed from the equation. And just days later images of the former footballer were back in the news, this time showing him alongside Hollande as he was given the prestigious Legion d’Honneur. Thuram's place among France's pantheon of national heros seemed assured once again.

There was then a further twist however, when Europe 1 radio revealed the next day that Thuram had been summoned to a Paris police station at an unspecified date, to answer questions regarding the domestic violence complaint against him.

So why did he get this great honour?

Well, in light of the allegations made against him, that’s an excellent question.

Before this week, though, Thuram had been known in France primarily as a footballing hero, but also as an anti-racism campaigner since his retirement in 2008, the same year he started the Lilian Thuram Foundation for Education Against Racism.

On Tuesday, Hollande lavished praise on the former defender, who won a World Cup with France, in Paris, in 1998, as well as playing for Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona.

“Everyone remembers your sporting glory, and especially that famous night, July 8th 1998 at Stade de France,” Hollande said.

“I was there when, in the semi-final of the World Cup against Croatia, you scored the two goals that paved the way for France to the get to final, and in the end, claim victory,” Hollande added, before praising Thuram for his anti-racism campaigning and years of work with charities such as Unicef.

What’s his finest moment?

In any other situation, being awarded the Legion d’Honneur is about as proud an achievement as there is.

But given the dark cloud and serious accusations surrounding Thuram’s award this week, and because of the impact the 1998 World Cup had in France, his incredible 90-minute performance against Croatia, highlighted by Hollande himself, probably deserves that title.

Here are some short highlights of his two-goal tour de force in July 1998 – the pinnacle of his 142 matches for France. He had never, and would never again, hit the back of the net for his country.

What’s his darkest moment?

Appearing on the cover of Closer magazine this week, with the words “She accuses him of violence” emblazoned across his image.

In the interview, Le Marchand went further. “I don’t have to be afraid of him anymore,” she said simply.

The Local's French Face of the Week is a person in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as French Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

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‘A woman dies every three days’: The scourge of domestic violence in France

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women in France are victims of abuse by their partner in every year. On the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, here's a look at the challenge France faces in combating this scourge.

'A woman dies every three days': The scourge of domestic violence in France
Photo: lofilolo/Depositphotos
In France, a woman dies at the hands of her live-in partner every three days.
In 2016, this amounted to 123 deaths. In 2012, 148 women were killed compared to 121 in 2011. 
Not only are these figures shocking but, according to experts, they don't tell the whole story. 
“These figures are underestimated,” Annie Guilberteau, director of France's national information service for women's rights (CIDFF), told BFM TV
“They do not take into account suicides and disappearances.” 
Photo: AFP
Last year, 85,424 people filed lawsuits against their spouses for assault and battery, a rise of three percent on 2015 figures, a study by France's official crime data agency (ONDRP) on violence between couples, reveals.
According to this document, nearly nine out of ten victims are women, reported 20 Minutes
And the High Council for the Equality of Men and Women believe the figures are even higher, reporting that on average, 201,000 every year women in France claim to be victims of domestic violence, be that physical or sexual. 
Some of these women are repeatedly victimized. 
The study notes that “out of 2,096 cases of rapes by a partner, 2,074 were committed against women”. 
The number of complaints being made in this area is on the rise, with figures increasing by 16 percent between 2015 and 2016. 
But why the rise in complaints?
“There are different factors,” said Christophe Soullez, director of the ONDRP. “But it's probably partly due to police conducting themselves better around victims.”
“Police have been trained in how to welcome and listen to victims,” said Soullez, adding that “in recent years, the voice of victims has been freed” as a result of various awareness campaigns. 
Over half of French women victims of sexual harassment as public accusations fly
Photo: AFP
But others aren't so positive, explaining that while there are more and more victims coming forward, many remain silent. 
“What we see is the tip of the iceberg,” Janine Mossuz-Lavau, director of research at French think tank Cevipof and author of several books on equality, told BFM TV. 
“The nature of conjugal violence makes it hard to get an accurate reading on figures,” she said. “It [the figures] does not reflect the reality of conjugal violence.”
“It is a hidden phenomenon. Sometimes a woman can die and no one around her was aware that there was violence between her and her partner.”
Funding concerns
There are concerns, on the eve of a day dedicated to raising awareness of this crucial issue, that the amount of money dedicated to this serious issue aren't sufficient.  
In France, €30 million of funding goes towards preventing violence against women. By comparison, in July Spain released €1 billion. 
“Next to that, we are ridiculous,” said Marie Allibert, women's rights group Osez le Feminisme. “We cannot stop a haemorrhage with a bandage.”
In 2012, 148 women were killed compared to 121 in 2011. In 2010, it was 146 women.  
This year's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women comes at a time when women across the world are speaking out about their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in both the private and public spheres.
At 6am on Friday morning several prominent women's rights activists released a public campaign on social media under the hashtag #SoyezAuRdv in a bid to get the attention of French President Emmanuel Macron, reported Le Parisien.
Their aim is to get the president to launch an emergency plan against sexual violence. 
At 11am and 6.30pm on Friday, people are due to gather at Place de la République in Paris, where a woman will address a message to Emmanuel Macron every 55 seconds representing the fact that in France, that is how often an incident of sexual assault occurs.
On Saturday, the French president will outline his plan to combat aggression against women, which will include the launch of a public awareness campaign, as well as a specific awareness campaign on the dangers of pornography. 
Macron is also expected to announce his support for an online system which is designed to save victims from having to go to the police stations to file a complaint.