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CRIME

France’s MPs vote in favour of rapid financial aid for domestic violence victims

The French parliament has voted unanimously in favour of providing rapid financial aid to victims of domestic violence - allowing them to leave abusive partners without financial constraints.

France's MPs vote in favour of rapid financial aid for domestic violence victims
French politician Valerie Letard, who proposed the domestic violence aid bill, during an address in Vincennes in January 2022. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

After passing unanimously in the French Senate, the bill, which would provide emergency assistance to victims of domestic violence, also received the united support of France’s Assemblé Nationale on Monday.

First proposed by centrist senator Valérie Létard, the proposed law has the goal of ensuring that victims of domestic violence can get to safety as quickly as possible, by removing the financial constraints that many experience. 

France’s Gender Equality Minister, Isabelle Rome, told La Croix that this law will help to ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to leave unsafe situations and remain away from their aggressors.

Rome went on to explain that the financial aspect is of particular importance because of the many victims who are “financially dependent on someone else or held under another’s control, and therefore are sometimes left with no choice but to return.”

The proposed law will still need to be finalised, as amendments were added when it went through the Assemblé Nationale. According to reporting by La Croix, the a final version of the text is likely to pass France’s parliament in the coming weeks, and it could come into effect within the next nine months.

There is a difference over the form the financial assistance will take – the Assemblé Nationale supported adding an amendment that would make the financial aid available in the form of a grant and not simply an interest-free loan, which the senate had voted on. 

If the bill passes in its current form then the financial support for domestic violence victims could be conditional on a “protection order,” a criminal complaint or a report made to the public prosecutor.

The proposed law would also make it so that a portion of the funds would need to be paid within three days.

One of the proposed plans could be to make it so that – if the aid is granted in loan-form – then the person convicted of violence would be responsible for its repayment.

These specifics will be clarified in the final version of the text which should be voted on in coming weeks.

The plan to provide financial support for victims of domestic violence was inspired by a previous experiment conducted in the département of Nord in north-east France. 

According to data by the French ministry of the interior, there were at least 207,743 victims of domestic violence in France in 2021 – the majority of them women. The ministry recorded that 122 women were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse in the same year.

Despite the high numbers of deaths linked to domestic violence, French authorities have often been reluctant to tackle to problem, with victims reporting that police did not take their concerns seriously or failed to help people in need. 

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STRIKES

French Prime Minister Macron doubles down on pension age as strikes loom

France's prime minister on Sunday ruled out backtracking on a plan to raise the retirement age as unions prepared for another day of mass protests against the contested reform.

French Prime Minister Macron doubles down on pension age as strikes loom

An increase in the minimum retirement age to 64 from the current 62 is part of a flagship reform package pushed by President Emmanuel Macron to ensure the future financing of France’s pensions system.

After union protests against the change brought out over a million people into the streets on January 19, the government signalled there was wiggle room on some measures, including the number of contributing years needed to qualify for a full pension, special deals for people who started working very young, and provisions for mothers who interrupted their careers to look after their children.

But the headline age limit of 64 was not up for discussion, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday.

“This is now non-negotiable,” she told the FranceInfo broadcaster.

While unions have welcomed the government’s readiness for negotiation on parts of the plan, they say the proposed 64-year rule has to go.

Calling the reform “unfair” France’s eight major unions, in a rare show of unity, said they hoped to “mobilise even more massively” on Tuesday, their next scheduled protest day, than at the showing earlier this month.

“Even more people”

“It’s looking like there will be even more people”, said Celine Verzeletti, member of the hardleft union CGT’s confederation leadership.

Pointing to opinion polls, Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said that “the people disagree strongly with the project, and that view is gaining ground”.

It would be “a mistake” for the government to ignore the mobilisation, he warned.

Unions and the government both see Tuesday’s protests as a major test.

Some 200 protests are being organised countrywide, with a big march planned for Paris, culminating in a demonstration outside the National Assembly where parliamentary commissions are to start examining the draft law on Monday.

The leftwing opposition has submitted more than 7,000 amendments to the draft in a bid to slow its path through parliament.

Macron’s allies are short of an absolute majority in parliament and will need votes from conservatives to approve the pensions plan.

The government has the option of forcing the bill through without a vote under special constitutional powers, but at the risk of triggering a vote of no confidence, and possibly new parliamentary elections.

In addition to protest marches, unions have called for widespread strike action for Tuesday, with railway services and public transport expected to be heavily affected.

Stoppages are also expected in schools and administrations, with some local authorities having already announced closures of public spaces such as sports stadiums.

Some unions have called for further strike action in February, including at commercial ports, refineries and power stations.

Some observers said the unions are playing for high stakes, and any slackening of support Tuesday could be fatal for their momentum.

“They have placed the bar high,” said Dominique Andolfatto, a professor for political science. “They can’t afford any missteps.”

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