‘Impunity is growing’: French celebrities call for law to crack down on sexism and sexual violence

More than 140 French public figures from literature, film, journalism and politics are calling for the introduction of a wide-ranging law against sexist and sexual violence in France, saying the country has failed to adequately respond to the #MeToo movement.

Personalities including the bestselling writers Camille Kouchner, Leïla Slimani and Vanessa Springora as well as the actors Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Béart and the actor-director Judith Godrèche, told Le Monde: “Despite the courage of victims, impunity is growing.”

In a petition, published in Le Monde, they said France is “abysmally” lagging behind in terms of the reaction of society and the legal system to the pervasive problem of sexist and sexual abuse. “It’s unacceptable that the rate of dismissals of complaints of sexual violence reached the delirious rate of 94% in 2022,” the petition said.

They called for a far-reaching rethink of policy on rape and sexual assault in France.

The petition said: “We demand an all-encompassing law to clarify, among other things, the definitions of ‘rape’ and ‘consent,’ to introduce the term ‘incest,’ to try serial rapists for all known rapes, to extend protection orders to rape victims, to facilitate the gathering of evidence, to create specialised police units, to prohibit investigations into victims’ sexual histories, to allow immediate and free access to psychological trauma care, to finally provide the financial means for this public policy and the organisations that implement it.”

In an unprecedented move, 100 of the signatories – including Binoche, Godrèche, the actor Vahina Giocante and the writer Christine Angot – posed for a series of group photographs in Le Monde.

The actor Anna Mouglalis, who had the idea for the photo, said she wanted to take action after seeing that the proportion of rape accusations that were dismissed in France rose from 86% in 2016 to 94% in 2022.

“While the fight against sexual and sexist violence is supposed to be the major cause of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, in reality impunity continues to grow,” she told Le Monde. She said it was not just a case of a single profession being affected, but of “systematic violence running through the whole of French society”.

The manifesto was published on the first day of the Cannes film festival, and as the French film industry is coming to terms with recent allegations of rape and sexual assault. A short film by Godrèche entitled Moi Aussi, or Me Too, highlighting the stories of survivors of sexual violence, will premiere at the festival.

Godrèche has become a leading voice in France’s #MeToo movement after accusing the directors Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of sexually assaulting her while she was a teenager. Both men have denied the allegations. Prosecutors have launched an inquiry.

Gérard Depardieu, one of France’s best-known actors, will face a criminal trial in October over the alleged sexual assaults of two women on the set of a film in 2021. He is also under formal investigation in another case after the actor Charlotte Arnould alleged he raped her at his Paris home in 2018. He has denied all allegations.

On Monday, the French magazine Elle published allegations of rape, assault and sexual harassment by nine women against the influential French film producer Alain Sarde, who has produced films by directors from Jean-Luc Godard to Roman Polanski. In a statement to French media, Sarde’s lawyer denied all allegations.

The Guardian

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