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Acts of Violence Against Women : “a TV Campaign isn’t Enough”

Translated Thursday 3 December 2009, by Christine Rentschler and reviewed by Bill Scoble

A new law to fight violence against women will be introduced in parliament today (November 25th). The feminist activist Suzy Rojtman explains why legislating is a case of emergency.

A white paper penned by the left-wing parties has been gathering dust on the shelves of Parliament since 2007. Today, yet another paper will be put up for debate, this time by congressmen from both sides of the political spectrum. The main propositions are the creation of two new misdemeanors to condemn both “psychological harassment within the couple” and “forced marriage” (which would this time lead to victims being awarded a long-term visa to stay in the country). The writers also ask for a toughening of the dispositions to keep the abusive and violent spouse out of the family home.

Interview with Suzy Rojtman, spokesperson of the Collectif National pour le droit des femmes (national collective for women’s rights)

Why should there be a law?

Suzy Rojtman : To be honest, there have already been many new laws since the 1980s and the law on rape. But they try only to prevent violent behavior, and we think France has to adopt a framework law. Its aim would be to deal with every aspect of violence against women, in terms of repression, but also in terms of prevention, public awareness and solidarity, and even cover the consequences of the acts of violence committed within the workplace.

The Spanish framework law is often seen as the example to follow, but has it been effective?

SR : It’s hard to tell, but it undoubtedly helped raise awareness so that Spanish women are no longer afraid to press charges. In France, the 2000 national inquiry revealed that 48,000 women were victims of rapes but only 5% dared to press charges. Giving women standing (in the legal sense) in court and breaking the law of silence are both important.

What do you think of the emergency cellphone that was given to 20 women in Seine-St-Denis as an experiment?

SR : It can’t be the only measure, especially since it only targets victims of spousal abuse. Michèle Alliot-Marie (France’s Home Secretary) is making a big deal out of the emergency cellphone despite the fact that it is not really breaking new ground. You can’t be content with a TV campaign; you need to go way beyond that. The root of the problem is that there is absolutely no political will to make a change.

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