‘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.


More than one million French women targeted by sexist comments

More than one million French women, or one woman in 20, are targets of sexist comments in public, according to a new report on sexism. *French language learner article.*

More than one million French women targeted by sexist comments
Photo: jovannig/Depositphotos
*This is a French language learner article. The words in bold are translated into French at the bottom of the article.
The report highlights the kind of discrimination women go through on a daily basis, revealing that 1.2 million women experiencing sexist insults in 2017. 
The first investigation into sexism in France was carried out by the High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCE) and the results were made public on Thursday.
The report focuses on sexists comments made in public, something which is now punishable with a €750 fine since France's new law on sexual violence was introduced in August 2018, but according to the council “currently enjoys a high social tolerance”. 
In fact during 2017, there were just four convictions for sexist insults, something which has been put down to the fact that victims do not believe it is worth reporting to the police, with only 3 percent pursuing an official complaint.

Women in Paris tell their stories of being groped, pestered and sexually harassedPhoto: Jean Francois Gornet/Flickr

It won't come as a surprise to many women living in a major French city that one of the main places the insults occur is on public transport, particularly the Paris Metro.

“It's often in the Metro,” Chloe, a 19-year-old student in Paris told Le Parisien. “The last time was three weeks ago: I got a comment that my trousers molded my buttocks. I did not answer so he called me a little slut.”
In 2016 a report revealed that half of women in France choose to wear trousers not skirts when they take public transport to avoid being the victims of sexual harassment.
And while official complaints to the police are rare, French women do discuss the kind of insults they frequently hear in public spaces on social media.
According to the report, the most frequently reported insults were 'slut' (27 percent), 'whore' (21 percent) and 'bitch' (16 percent), with the first two most commonly directed at women under 30.
While it isn't only women who are subjected to abuse in public, they represent 92 percent of the victims of gender-specific insults and 86 percent of these comments are made by men, the report claims.
“Women are insulted because they are women,” said the HCE. “Their sex is the marker of their difference and justifies the insult. On the other hand, insults against men are not based on the idea that being a man is intrinsically negative.”
The body pointed out that insults heard by men often reflect the opposite.
“A man will never be too manly and the insults that are addressed to him focus on the fact that he is not manly enough.”
French vocab to learn
Discrimination — une discrimination
Insult — une insulte
Sexism — le sexisme
Fine — une amende
Conviction — une conviction
Complaint — une plainte
Public Spaces —  un espace public
Social media — les réseaux sociaux