French parliament takes on sexual misconduct, amid scandals

PARIS: FranceThe congressional speaker released the first public accounting of complaints against a special unit to combat sexual harassment and other misconduct, after several cases involving French legislator accused of abuse caused public outrage.
Yaël Braun-Pivet, France’s first female speaker Congresssaid on public radio France-Info on Thursday that 40 cases of inappropriate behavior in the legislature – including sexual or moral harassment – have been registered since January 2021. .
The anti-harassment unit, set up in 2020, is part of a step-by-step but growing effort to tackle sexual abuse and sexism in French society.
Independent and specialized doctors and lawyers provide assistance to those who work in France’s lower house, from legislators to deputy assistants or staff.
Under French law, if situations have been reported that could constitute a crime, they must be reported to prosecutors. One case from last year went through that process, Braun-Pivet said.
Internal sanctions could also be imposed, she said, though she did not specify what happened in each case.
“It is important to have a special unit in place to handle these situations,” she said, stressing that there is no rule of silence around such abuse in the past. Parliamentand urge victims to speak up.
The new figures come amid a scandal that has rocked the left-wing opposition of Congress: Prominent far-left lawmaker Adrien Quatennens recently admitted to slapping his wife and presidential candidate three times influential Jean-Luc Melenchon initially defended him.
Quatennens resigns as party coordinator; Melenchon has been criticized within its left wing for failing to uphold its commitments to defending women’s rights and combating sexist violence.
Another prominent figure of the left, the legislator Julien Bayou was “suspended from his role” as co-chair of the Greens Party group in Congress on Tuesday, after a former partner accused him of psychological abuse in a complaint filed with the anti-harassment unit. of the party.
Bayou has not yet commented on the accusation and the party will make a ruling next week on his future role. An internal party investigation is underway.
Braun-Pivet claims that resigning is the “personal choice” of lawmakers if they are accused of misconduct, but the law does not force them to resign.
Former French minister Damien Abad has had to resign from the government after being accused of rape by two women. The case helped incite a movement to expose sexual misconduct in French politics.
Abad, also a member of parliament, denied the charges. Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the charges.
Braun-Pivet spoke about her experience in Parliament where she was first elected in 2017 and was the target of sexist behavior, including inappropriate “remarks” and “discriminations” little noise”.
But she hopes that things will gradually change. She noted that women make up 37% of lawmakers in Congress – down from 39% five years ago but up from 12% a generation ago – and 5 out of 6 vice-presidents of Congress. currently female.

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