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WOMEN

Sexual harassment: Thousands of French women take to streets to say #MeToo

Thousands of people took the "Me too" online campaign against sexual harassment and assault started by the Harvey Weinstein affair onto the streets of France Sunday.

Sexual harassment: Thousands of French women take to streets to say #MeToo
Woman holds a placard reading "We will not be silent anymore". Photo: AFP
“Metoo by a colleague”, read a sign carried by one woman. “Metoo by a fellow activist” read another.
   
Similar gatherings were also held in Marseille, Bordeaux and Lille, among other cities.
   
According to Paris police, 2,500 people turned out for the rally in the French capital. Elsewhere the numbers were smaller, with one or two hundred turning up for each march.
   
The rallies were organised by freelance journalist Carol Galand, who said she wanted to ensure the campaign to end sexual violence and harassment of women went “beyond social media buzz.”
 
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Photo: AFP
 
Margot, an 18-year-old waitress demonstrating in Paris, told AFP that she had been molested by a male colleague in work.
 
When she brought it up with a superior she was told it was simply “his way of communicating”.
   
In Bordeaux, a young woman said she had remained silent about being drugged and raped at a party at the age of 15.
   
“You don't talk about it because you don't want it to cause a ruckus in your family,” she said.
   
French feminists have said they believe the #metoo campaign could mark a turning point on attitudes towards sexual predation in a country long seen as soft on the issue.
 
Polanski back in spotlight
 
The campaign began in the US in response to the plethora of abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and was quickly copied in France, where many women used the #balancetonporc (expose your pig) hashtag to share tales of harassment.
   
Since it started, several prominent figures have been targeted in French assault claims, including a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron's party, a judge on France's equivalent of “America's Got Talent” and renowned Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan, a leading lecturer in Islamic studies.
   
Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in the 1970s, has also been hit with new abuse claims.
   
Swiss prosecutors are investigating new rape allegations against Polanski made by a Swiss woman — bringing to at least four the number of people who have publicly accused him of assault.
   
Feminist groups plan protests on Monday outside a Paris-based film archive where is scheduled to attend the launch of a retrospective of his work.

WOMEN

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.

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