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What has happened to France’s ‘missing’ Voltaire statue?

When workmen were spotted in Paris packing away the statue of Voltaire, rumours immediately began online that the enlightenment philosopher, historian and writer had become a victim of 'cancel culture'.

What has happened to France's 'missing' Voltaire statue?
French writer Voltaire. Photo: AFP

The rumours that it was being removed for good appear to have begun with far-right social media accounts who blamed 'anti-racists', but soon spread so that by Tuesday morning #voltaire was trending on Twitter in France, possibly a first for the writer since his death in 1778.

Several French MPs even joined in the debate, demanding answers from culture minister Roselyn Bachelot, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, prime minister Jean Castex and president Emmanuel Macron – who had a telephone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the rapidly unravelling situation in Belarus so might have had other things on his mind.

Paris' deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire then got involved, tweeting that the statue had merely been taken away for cleaning.

 

However, he went on to add that it will not be returning to its former home in Rue de Bac in the city's 6th arrondissement.

Once the cleaning is complete, the statue will be returned to the Centre national des arts plastiques, he said, adding that: “The city would like it to be relocated in the public space, with the permission of the state.”

He also dismissed the rumours by paraphrasing Voltaire himself Quand une fois la calomnie est entrée dans l'esprit d'un médisant, elle n'en déloge pas (once calumny has entered the mind of a slanderer it does not dislodge) at which point one of the MPs who had retweeted the story graciously apologised.

 

Exactly where the statue of François-Marie Arouet – to give him the name he was born with – is heading to remains a mystery.

Following the Black Lives Matter that saw several statues around the globe removed – including the statue of British slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol – Macron stated: “The French Republic will not erase any trace or name from its history.”

 

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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