Many young Frenchmen say violence against women acceptable, sexism survey reveals

Sexism remains at an "alarming" level in France with many young men judging discriminatory or violent behaviour against women to be acceptable, a report published on Monday found.

Many young Frenchmen say violence against women acceptable, sexism survey reveals
Protestors march from Place de la Republique holding banners during a demonstration organised by "NousToutes" (All of Us), a French feminist collective, against sexist and sexual violences in Paris, on November 20, 2021. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

Based on a study of 2,500 people France’s High Authority on Equality (HCE), a consultative body, found that while most respondents bemoaned sexism in principle, “they fail to reject it in practice”.

French people had become more aware of gender inequality, partly thanks to the #MeToo movement, but “bias and gender stereotypes, sexist cliches and everyday sexism are still commonplace”, it said.

“The report shows a French society that remains deeply sexist in all its spheres,” the HCE said.

Some of sexism’s most violent manifestations were actually getting worse, it said, especially for the younger generation.

While older men often remained stuck in conservative views on male and female roles in society, younger men sometimes displayed aggressively macho tendencies, the report said. 

READ MORE: Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?

Some 20 percent of men between 25 and 34 years polled said bragging about sexual exploits was needed to “be respected as a man in society”, while 23 percent said that men “sometimes need to use violence to get respect”.

‘Less well treated’

While most men over 65 judged that the image of women in pornography was “problematic”, only 48 percent of men aged 15-34 years thought so.

Some 80 percent of women questioned said, meanwhile, that they thought they had been “less well treated” in their lives because of their gender.

Fourteen percent said they had had a sexual act forced on them, and 37 percent said they had lived some sexual situation to which they had not consented.

A quarter of the men in the report downplayed sexual violence, saying that “too much attention is being paid to sexual assaults”.

The HCE said it had detected a male “backlash” across French society, with “macho raids” on social media seeking “to reduce women to silence or discredit them”.

New forms of sexual targeting were making things worse for many women, the report found, citing online violence, verbal abuse on social media and porn productions with “barbaric” content.

HCE president Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette said the authorities needed to target male attitudes “from a very young age”, including “massive action” in education, and more stringent regulation of the online sphere.

“Everyday sexism leads to violent sexism,” Pierre-Brossolette told AFP. 

She also called for the creation of a public independent high authority to fight sexist violence in politics, and more financial and human resources to combat domestic violence.

The HCE also recommended a ban on gendered toys for children and making public subsidies for companies contingent on progress in terms of equality.

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Rights groups complain to UN over French police racial profiling

Rights watchdogs including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Thursday said they were seeking UN help to end racial profiling by the French police, they said.

Rights groups complain to UN over French police racial profiling

Evidence and testimonies from victims and police show that in France “racial profiling particularly targets black and Arab young men and boys or those perceived as such, including children as young as 10,” HRW said.

“These abusive and illegal identity checks, which are widespread throughout the country and deeply rooted in police practices, constitute systemic racial discrimination.”

HRW and Amnesty International France, as well as three other French groups, lodged a complaint with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

France’s highest administrative court, the State Council, in October last year found that racial profiling by the police was not limited to “isolated cases”.

But “the government has taken no action to address the problem,” said HRW.

“By failing to take the necessary measures to put an end to this practice, the French government is failing to meet its obligations under several international treaties,” it added.

The UN committee monitors compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which France has signed.

In July last year, it had already raised concern about “excessive use of force by law enforcement” in France and called on the country to ban racial profiling.

The comments came after the fatal police shooting the previous month of a 17-year-old teenager named Nahel during a traffic stop, in an incident that revived long-standing grievances about policing in low-income and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods.

France’s rights ombudsman in 2017 found that a young person “perceived as black or Arab” was 20 times more likely to face an identity check than the rest of the population.