French female ministers vow to speak up against sexism

'Like all women who have entered into previously exclusively male environments, we have had to either submit to or fight against sexism,' the ministers said in a statement.

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Former French health minister Roselyne Bachelot.

As many as seventeen female ministers in France have made a declaration stating that they won’t tolerate sexual harassment in politics anymore.

The declaration was signed on Sunday by prominent ministers including ex-health minister Roselyne Bachelot, ex-housing minister Cecile Duflot, as well as former finance minister and current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.

"We will no longer keep quiet," the ministers said in a joint statement. They also called for toughening laws against sexual harassment and proposed other measures to tackle the problem.

The move from female public figures came days after an investigation was opened into multiple claims against a former deputy parliamentary speaker Denis Baupin.

Signatories to the declaration promised to "systematically denounce all sexist, remarks, inappropriate gestures, inappropriate behaviour," announcing an end to the silence with which such cases have previously been met.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, answers a question during a press conference, at the Treasury in London, Britain May 13, 2016

They urged political parties and groups to verify whether such acts had taken place and, if necessary, help victims tell their stories and gain justice.

‘Enough is enough’

"Like all women who have entered into previously exclusively male environments, we have had to either submit to or fight against sexism. It's not for women to adapt to these environments. It's the behaviour of certain men that need to change," the declaration said.

"Enough is enough. Impunity is over."

Former French deputy parliamentary speaker Denis Baupin.

Last week, French judges opened an investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment against Baupin, who has quit his speaker's post but vigorously denies the claims and has instructed his lawyers to sue two French media outlets for defamation, calling the allegations "mendacious."

Finance Minister Michel Sapin also became ensnared in a sexual harassment scandal last week after admitting that he acted "inappropriately" towards a female journalist after twice denying any improper conduct.

Initiative welcomed

Women's Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol hailed the initiative of the female ministers.

French Minister for the Family, Children and Women's Rights Laurence Rossignol attends a conference in Paris on May 9, 2016.

"We say to men who behave this way: leave us alone. Don't forget for even 30 seconds that you should regard us women purely in the professional sense, as the bosses or the colleagues that we are. Stop judging us all the time as the targets of your quests," she commented.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls also tweeted his support for the initiative.