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‘Glottophobie’: France approves law banning discrimination based on a person’s accent

The French lower house of parliament on Thursday approved a law banning discrimination based on a person's accent, calling the practice "a form of racism".

'Glottophobie': France approves law banning discrimination based on a person's accent
Prime Minister Jean Castex is one of the few people in government with a regional accent. Photo: AFP

The text, overwhelmingly adopted by 98 votes to 3, adds accent discrimination – known as glottophobie in French – to the list of causes of actionable discrimination, along with racism, sexism and discrimination against the disabled.

The maximum penalty proposed in the new legislation is three years' imprisonment and a fine of €45,000.

The law, proposed by centre-right deputy Christophe Euzet, was the subject of animated debate in the house, despite the overwhelming vote.

READ ALSO Why all the snobbery in France around regional accents?

 

“At a time when the 'visible' minorities benefit from the legitimate attention of public authorities, the 'audible' minorities are the main forgotten people of the social contract based on equality,” Euzet argued.

Maina Sage, deputy for French Polynesia, spoke of the difficulties that can be encountered by people, like her, speaking with an accent from outside the French mainland.

Patricia Miralles, the daughter of North Africans, spoke of the “mockery” that she encountered in her younger days over her Algerian accent, which she briefly reprised in the parliamentary chamber.

Other members of parliament denounced the fact that too many broadcasters with a strong accent get pigeonholed into reporting on rugby or reading the weather bulletin.

On the other hand, Jean Lassalle, of the opposition Libertes et territoires party which includes Corsican nationalists, voted against the text.

“I'm not asking for charity, I'm not demanding to be protected because I am who I am,” he said in his strong southwest France accent.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, a former lawyer, said he was “very convinced” about the need for the new law.

Last month Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) movement, was caught on camera being rude to a journalist with a southern accent who asked him a question at the National Assembly.

“Can someone ask me a question in French? And (make it) a bit more understandable…,” Melenchon said then, addressing a group of reporters in a video clip which was widely circulated on social media.

The prime minister, Jean Castex, has a south west accent which was patronisingly referred to in some French media at the time of his appointment as “a bit rugby” – referring to the fact that most TV rugby commentators come from France's rugby heartlands in the south west.

 

 

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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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