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Ex French PM blasts 'insidious sexism' that remains in politics

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Ex French PM blasts 'insidious sexism' that remains in politics
Former Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has spoken out about sexism in politics. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Elisabeth Borne, the second woman to serve as prime minister of France, on Friday denounced the "insidious sexism" that she said still permeated French politics.

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Borne stepped down earlier this year in a cabinet reshuffle ordered by President Emmanuel Macron after less than two years in office.

"We don't have the unbridled sexism" experienced by Edith Cresson, the first woman to head the French government, from 1991 to 1992, "but there is still a form of sexism that is undoubtedly more insidious", Borne told broadcaster RTL on Friday, International Women's Day.

Borne, 62, was the second woman to serve as prime minister after Cresson, steering Macron's government between 2022 and 2024.

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At Macron's request, she resigned in January, replaced by 34-year-old Gabriel Attal, who became France's youngest head of government. The new cabinet was criticised by some feminists as all of the senior posts - foreign affairs, interior, finance and defence - were now occupied by men.

Borne said women in politics were "constantly" compared to men.

"Men in politics, they all have an interest in imposing masculine codes, it eliminates the competition", she added.

She also said that all candidates to succeed her were men.

"It's as if commentators were saying to themselves: 'We've just had a woman prime minister for 20 months, that's it, we're back to normal life'," she said.

She said more work needed to be done to achieve genuine equality, in politics, business, and science.

Even when she handed over office to Attal on January 9th, Borne had made clear her resentment over sexism in French politics, saying "I have also been able to see quite often that there is still some way to go for equality between women and men."

But she added in that ceremony in a message to women: "Hold on, the future belongs to you."

On Friday, Macron oversaw abortion becoming a constitutional right at a special ceremony in Paris to mark the world first.

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In a historic vote, a rare congress of both houses of parliament on Monday gave a green light towards making terminating a pregnancy a "guaranteed freedom" in the basic text, sparking celebration among feminists.

Borne said she was glad to see the inclusion of abortion rights in the constitution, calling it "a rather unusual moment of unity."

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