What The French Government Is Trying To Do About Domestic Violence

Sep 3, 2019
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One hundred women have been killed in France this year by their partners. That grim statistic has led the French government to take action, including holding a national conference today. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley looks at what the French government is trying to do about domestic violence.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Demonstrations in France have multiplied in the last year as outrage over domestic violence rises. This weekend, the 100th victim was found under a pile of trash, apparently bludgeoned to death. Women gathered across from the Eiffel Tower, each holding a placard with a name on it.

Parisian Sophie Barre was there.

SOPHIE BARRE: (Through interpreter) Last night, a woman was killed, beaten so badly that she couldn't be identified. There's a level of violence against women in society that is starting to finally, little by little, be recognized.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Domestic violence is grabbing headlines as the media keep track of the victim count. The issue has been featured in numerous documentaries and podcasts this year. People are calling it femicide.

Opening the conference on domestic violence, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said a woman dies at the hands of her partner every three days in France, and things have to change.

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PRIME MINISTER EDOUARD PHILIPPE: (Through interpreter) When a woman goes to the emergency room, it's already painful enough. She shouldn't then have to go to the police station to file a complaint. She should be able to file at the hospital.

BEARDSLEY: A 24-hour domestic violence hotline went live today in France. The government also announced a thousand new spots in domestic violence shelters and new rules for police hearings. The French prime minister says he also wants to see in use within the year electronic bracelets that alert the woman if her partner is anywhere near her.

Jane Monckton-Smith is a forensic criminologist who studies domestic violence. She says the common theme is the attacker's need for control.

JANE MONCKTON-SMITH: To own them, to possess them and to subjugate them. These are not crimes of passion. We have to move away from that. We have to start seeing them as planned and determined.

BEARDSLEY: Scores of people stood outside the prime minister's headquarters where the conference was taking place. Susie Rothsman is head of a women's rights group, Collective Pour Les Droits Des Femmes. She says the government of President Emmanuel Macron has been dragging its feet on the issue.

SUSIE ROTHSMAN: (Through interpreter) Macron spoke of filing complaints in the hospital in 2017, two years ago. Why have we waited so long? Women have died since then. And obviously, changing things at the police station, where victims are not always taken seriously, is key.

GIOVANNI VARLET: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Giovanni Varlet traveled from the south of France with his father. They hold posters with pictures of his sister Aurelia, who was murdered by her partner six years ago.

VARLET: (Through interpreter) It's hard at first. You collapse. Then you hear about police negligence and impunity, which happened in our case, and you get angry. And of course, you don't think it can ever happen to you. So that's why we have to speak loud and strong and be vigilant.

BEARDSLEY: Varlet says this conference is helping people speak out.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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