France is back and so is feminism. [fr]
62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) - General Debate
Statement by Mrs Marlène Schiappa, French Minister of State for Gender Equality
13 March 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2017 marked the end of global denial on gender-based and sexual violence.
2018 should not be just the end of an era. 2018 should be the beginning of another.
Year 1 after #MeToo.
In 2018, in the world, women’s rights were attacked by two enemies. These enemies, apparently antagonistic, pursue the same goal: the deshumanisation of women.
In mega cities as well as rural areas, obscurantism wants to take the place of science: genital mutilation, stoning, forced marriages of young girls, justified in the name of the so-called inferiority of women to men. As we stand here at the United Nations in New York, hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have disappeared from the radar screen, Yezidi women are reduced to slavery by Daesh.
Women’s freedoms are under threat everywhere.
A new specter haunts Europe and threatens the West: populism. Populism, an instrument of nationalism, is the law of the jungle.
It means using the right to speak on behalf of peoples to silence them. The populists and their allies are challenging human rights, and first of all women’s rights. It may seems paradoxical, but sometimes, women embody them, in defiance of the most basic sorority.
France, for its part, thinking of the legacy of Simone Veil, will continue to defend everywhere, always, sexual and reproductive rights.
In this respect, France can only deplore the decisions of its historical allies such as Hungary, Poland, the United States of America ... to challenge, more or less directly, access to abortion.
As President Emmanuel Macron has stated: France is back. Not that it had left, but it was at times in withdrawal from what the world has been and will always be entitled to expect from the country of Simone de Beauvoir. France is back for itself: for the first time, a five-year great cause has been declared, devoted to gender equality. The state no longer wants to let civil society mobilize courageously alone in this fight, because it is one. A law will be presented to better condemn new forms of violence against women, in the street as on the internet: no area of lawlessness must remain.
France is back for the world: 50% of development aid will be devoted to projects in support for equality between girls and boys by 2022. And I can announce, on behalf of the French Republic, that we will increase by 10 million euros our support for the She decides initiative for sexual and reproductive rights.
Studies report that the equality of women and men at work would be reached in the world in the year 2234. We refuse to wait another two centuries. Our goal, and I know that all the nations represented today share it, is to bring that date closer to us. This is what we owe to young girls today and to future generations. That’s why we are working on this topic with our American and Canadian partners. We are organizing with India and Senegal a partnership on women and girls’ health in rural areas. And that’s why we worked yesterday on women’s political empowerment with Sweden. France can count on the support of powerful allies committed nationally and internationally for women’s rights, and I want to say to everyone that you can count on France as well.
Choice is a major right. To choose to marry. To divorce. To have an education. To have children. To abort. To start a business. To run for election - to win sometimes. To pass her driving license. To travel. To circulate freely.
To live, simply.
This is what French feminist diplomacy is about.
These choices should not be privileges. The empowerment of women in rural areas, should they create businesses, collect salt on the shores of Lake Retba in Senegal, work in a sheep pen in South Corsica, is not to choose for them but to allow them to freely access these choices.
Sometimes it takes generations to climb a few inches for the rights for women but it takes only a few seconds of inattention to fall one kilometer away from what we patiently climbed.
Women from all countries are looking at us and asking us, members of the United Nations, not to minimize, not to excuse, not to justify, not to tolerate any assault on women, anywhere, ever.
France is back and so is feminism.