“Harassment in politics: For an end to the impunity”.
This was the headline in the Libération newspaper on Tuesday, the morning after deputy speaker of France's parliament Denis Baupin quit following accusations, which he vehemently denies, that he sexually harassed four female members of his own party.
French judges have since opened an investigation into the allegations, with Paris prosecutors noting that no criminal complaint had been lodged against Baupin.
“'If he invites you to dinner, say no.'
'Don't take the elevator alone with him.'
'Be careful if you end up alone in an office with him.'
“These are the phrases that women tell one another (…) and these phrases say it all,” wrote the authors in Libération.
They spoke of the “omerta” or the silence that comes with the “taboo” of sexual harassment, and noted that women in politics felt that they would be discredited if they reported incidents.
“It's tough in general for women to talk about this kind of violence, but it's even harder in the microcosm of politics, where – more so than elsewhere – they cannot be seen as being weak,” they wrote.
The authors thanked all women who had had the courage to report sexual harassment, and encouraged them to sign a petition calling for new measures that would spell an end to sexual harassment in French politics.
The measures including the introduction of a support group for female politicians so they knew how to report harassment, and training for them to fight against it.
It had garnered nearly 6,000 signatures by 10am.
One of the women whose name appeared below Tuesday's story in Libération was Marie Allibert, the spokeswoman from French feminist organization Osez le Féminisme.
“It's highly difficult for women who have been victims of sexual predators to talk about it and to break the law of silence and I think we should thank these women who have been brave enough to do so,” she told The Local on Tuesday.
“I think we should take this opportunity to think of the problem not as an isolated 'bad guy' but as a symptom of something much wider than this specific case. Our society constantly downplays sexism and the often illegal behaviours it produces. It's time that it stopped.”
Allibert said a key problem was that French society was patriarchal, and than men were generally dominant in fields like politics and economics.
“In politics, it's even worse because we are talking about men who have power and influence: the power for example to help a woman in her career, or to ruin it… There are few women in positions of responsibility, and this increases the patriarchal domination.”
Libération newspaper also acted as a soapbox for anti-sexism call-to-arm in the May last year, when dozens of female political reporters said they were fed up with the bawdy remarks and wandering hands of France's lecherous male politicians.