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OPERA

Paris Opera dancers complain of bullying and sexual harassment

A survey of ballet dancers at the prestigious Paris Opera has revealed widespread complaints of bullying and sexual harassment, as well as separate management concerns over the leadership of dance director Aurelie Dupont.

Paris Opera dancers complain of bullying and sexual harassment
Photo: AFP

In the anonymous survey seen by AFP, 90 percent said they did not believe  the company was being well managed and 77 percent said they had suffered  bullying or witnessed a colleague being bullied.

Some 26 percent of the 132 dancers questioned said they had been sexually  harassed at work or witnessed a colleague suffering sexual harassment.

Paris Opera chief Stephane Lissner expressed surprise that the  unprecedented survey, carried out by an internal body that represents the  dancers, had been leaked to the press.

He said there was “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment and urged dancers  who made the allegations to come forward, while promising a dialogue with staff “to consider this calmly and understand what the dancers are trying to say”.

Lissner also said the ballet company, one of the most prestigious in the  world, had “total confidence in Aurelie Dupont”, describing the 45-year-old as “an excellent director of dance”.

Dupont (pictured below), a former star ballerina at the Opera, took over as dance director  in 2016 after the shock resignation of Benjamin Millepied, husband of Hollywood actress Natalie Portman.

(AFP)

Around a hundred dancers signed a joint statement expressing dismay that  their survey had been leaked.

“The divulging of this survey was done without the consent of the dancers,” they said.

“At no moment did the performers who were being questioned have any idea that this document would be used for purposes contrary to their interests.”

Yet some dancers at the ballet confirmed the complaints about Dupont. 

“The current director seems totally incompetent when it comes to management, and has no desire to acquire such skills,” one dancer said on condition of anonymity.

Others spoke of a lack of support and career development and said the Opera's management appeared to have little interest in dialogue with their staff. 

“We're human beings, not pawns they can move around as they see fit,” one complained.

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment

An app to help protect women against sexual harassment in the streets is now being rolled out across France after a successful trial in Marseille.

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment
Photo: AFP

The Garde Ton Corps (protect your body) app was developed by yoga teacher Pauline Vanderquand in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence after she and her friends experienced harassment and assaults on the streets.

She told French newspaper Le Parisien: “It all started with a personal story. I was followed in the street, I asked for help at an institution and they wouldn't let me in. A little later, a friend was assaulted. I got really fed up, the next day I started the app project, too many stories of harassment were coming back to me.”

After help from the police and mairie (town hall) in Aix she then expanded the app to Marseille, where 20,000 people downloaded it in in the week of its launch in March.

Lockdown then delayed her plans, but the app is now available across France to download on Android, and will be available for iPhones later in August.

READ ALSO The 8 smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

 

The app has several functions.

The first 'I'm going home' allows users to transmit the geolocation of your route home to trusted people in your contacts book, using the phone's location services.

The second 'help me' is for use in an emergency situation, if there is a problem a pre-loaded alert message is sent via test-message to selected contacts in your address book, giving your location and the amount of battery left on your phone.

For those in selected locations there is also the 'safe places' option, which gives a list of establishments, usually bars, that have partnered with the app offering themselves as a safe space where women can go if they are being followed or harassed in the street.

Pauline has already partnered with several establishments in Aix and Marseille and is now working on getting Paris bars signed up to the app, helped her by ambassador in the area Anita Mas.

Bars or other establishments register themselves with the app as a 'safe space' and users can then find the nearest safe space to them in case of problems.

The app is free to download but bars and other partners pay a fee to register themselves, which goes towards helping the development of the app.

Amokrane Messous, manager of the Le Mondial bar in the 10th arrondissement, is one of those who has signed up.

He said: “The concept is interesting because in this neighborhood, after a certain time, there are security problems. Some people may feel uncomfortable. For women, it's a real plus to know that they can find a safe place.”

READ ALSO Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?

 

Street harassment is a long-standing problem in France, with public transport a particular problem.

A study in 2017 showed that at least 267,000 people, mostly women, were sexually abused on public transport in France over a two-year period.

In 2018 France brought it a new law that punishes sexual harassment in public spaces.

The new law allows for on-the-spot fines for behaviour including comments on a woman's looks or clothing, catcalling, intrusive questions, unwanted following and “upskirting” – taking pictures under a woman's dress without her knowing. 
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