The shocking figures that show the fight for women's rights in France is far from over

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The shocking figures that show the fight for women's rights in France is far from over
Women protest against domestic violence in Marseille on International Women's Day Photo: AFP

Although France has made some progress in the area of equal rights for women, these shocking stats show that there is a long way to go before égalité is achieved. On International Women's Day, it's time to look at what more needs to be done.


Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day that focuses on the need to continue the fight for equality.

When Emmanuel Macron took up his role as President of France in 2017, he made gender equality one of the key issues for his five year term. But, although some advances have been made, there remains much to be done to bridge the divide between sexes in France.

Only six countries in the world have legally enshrined gender equality in their work practices.

And the good news is that France is one of the progressive six. 

In the Gender Equality Index 2017, France did achieve fifth place out of all the EU countries with a high score of 72.6 out of 100.

However, there are still worrying disparities due to gender in France and the scales remain decisively tipped in favour of men. 

Pay gap:

According to a progressive French law, all companies must pay men and women equally - but this is still very much a work in progress. Women make up 52% of the population but still earn on average 24% less than men. And this gap widens if you are younger and earn less. Women aged 25 - 39 on a basic income earn 31% less than their male counterparts.


In France, many careers remain the preserve of men. The professions related to research and development (R&D) only have 30% female staff. In the construction industry, only 12% of employees are women.


Women are still not getting a seat at the top table of French businesses. Out of 120 major listed companies, only 9 have a female CEO. The latest to join this very elite club is Anne Rigail, who became the first ever female chief executive of Air France in December 2018.

Media representation:

Who are the French press talking about? Mostly men it seems. According to the latest 2018 Press'Edd barometer, based on the top 1,500 French press titles (daily, weekly, national or regional) and 1,500 editorial websites (including paywall), 15.3% of the 1,000 most high-profile personalities in 2018 are women. This is the second lowest level in six years: last year it was barely 16.9%.


Sexual harassment in public:

Whistling, insult, sexual assault... More than eight out of ten French women have experienced some form of sexual assault or assault on the street or on public transport. 32% of women report having been victims of inappropriate rubbing by a passer-by or passenger, 29% of sexual touching and 8% of rape. More than one in four women (28%) have also dealt with an exhibitionist.
Overall, 76% of women report having experienced these harassment situations on the street, compared to 74% in transport. Sexual assault, on the other hand, is more prevalent on public transport: one in three women (38%) has already been sexually assaulted on transport compared to one in five (21%) on the street.
Sexist insults:

Women account for 55% of victims of insults, and it is young people between the ages of 14 and 29 who suffer the most. Of these victims, 1 in 5 said it was a gender-based insult, representing 1.2 million people in France per year. In 70% of cases, women do not know the perpetrator of the insult, which is not surprising, given that two-thirds of insults take place in public spaces. But this sexism extends to so called humour segments on morning radio broadcasts. 71% use blatant sexism. Apparently these jokes succeed in making 31% of men laugh, compared to 15% of women. Not huge figures on either side, maybe the jokes are getting a little old?


In France, the average annual number of women aged 18 to 75 who are victims of physical and/or sexual violence committed by their former or current partner is estimated at 219,000 women, 3 out of 4 female victims report having suffered repeated incidents.


12% of all women in France have either been the victim of rape or of attempted rape. This works out as 250,000 women a year, a figure that has not fluctuated much over recent years. But, in the last decade, the number of people convicted of rape in France has dropped by 40%.


In 2017, 130 women were killed by their partners, ex-spouses or cohabitants, according to the Ministry of the Interior. That means one every three days.

The number was 119 in 2018. 30 women have already been murdered by either a partner or ex-partner in 2019.


French women are twice as likely to experience a significant depressive incident than their male counterparts. They are also more vulnerable to relapse and chronic depression, according to the French Ministry of Health.

Medical visits:

More than one in 10 French women have undergone sexual penetration against their will during a medical examination or consultationr. 87% of women were bothered by the behaviour of a health professional.


Women perform a large majority of household (71%) and parental (65%) tasks. Thus they spend 3 hours and 26 minutes a day on domestic tasks such as cleaning, shopping... compared to 2 hours for men who are more likely to do DIY or gardening. Men represent only 4% of parents who take parental leave.

by Sophie Gorman



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