Tag Archives: France

‘Against’ Homosexuality: The political battle across France


FRANCE HAS A long tradition of social movements. Strikes and demonstrations are such a common thing that French protesting generally does not bring surprise to the world. On October 7, 2014, huge demonstrations were held in Paris and Bordeaux with unconventional participants. Contra the typical ‘fight for your rights’ motivation of most protests, participants marched against guaranteed rights for homosexual couples, legislated in May 2013.

From Mariage pour tous to Manif’ pour tous

Small historical reminder: In May 2012 and in France, the socialist candidate Francois Hollande becomes the new President of the Republic. Among his promises, the legalisation of the wedding for homosexual people (it is the ‘mariage pour tous’ marriage for all) as well as the possibility for homosexual couples to adopt. One legal option was previously available for them: PACS (Civil Pact of Solidarity), a contract which creates mutual rights and obligations for couples but does not give a legal security as strong as the marriage, especially in areas concerning family and inheritance.

Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, is asked with preparing this bill to be discussed in The Parliament. Even if this promise was in the official program of the socialist candidate – that allowed him to be elected-, a certain part of the population does not agree with it and is getting ready to make some noise. A collective of 37 associations, mostly Christians but some also targeting the defence of child’s rights and families or political, called for massive demonstrations across France from November 2012. This movement, now named « Manif’ pour tous » (Demonstration for All) – to remind, if we need it, why they are fighting for- claims to had managed to gather around 500 000 to 1 million participants from the beginning of their actions according to the movement to shout that they do not want neither gay marriage couples neither its associated rights of adoption. Encouraging citizens to protest loudly and organizing journeys from all the French cities to join them in Paris by chartered buses or train deals.

Logo_La_Manif_pour_tous

Over the course of 2013, several large demonstrations succeeded in France, interrupted of scandals and criticism. In March 2013, Beatrice Bourges, one of the figures of the movement is excluded from Manif’ pour Tous when a part of demonstrators broke prefectural rules to protest onto Champs Elysées to face policemen. This mark the official separation of the Manif’ pour Tous with another movement called French Spring, with reference to the Arabic Spring.

It’s soon the turn of Frigide Barjot, a leading media spokeswoman for the Movement who is then pushed out following claims that she is not in line anymore with the movement’s positions- too lenient with the law that had just been promulgated. Plus, happened some homophobic skids that occurred during the demonstrations, without forgetting some violent talks of the catholic association CIVITAS – often considered as fundamentalist- which joined the demonstrations, but had finally been excluded by the collective.

Manif ‘pour Tous has also been criticized for the involment of children during the protests, not only bringing them to demonstrate but also placing them at the front of the group, looking similar as a shield against the police. Some mark the irony of an organization fighting to prevent the children’s rights by same-sex parents instrumentalizing their own in such a way.

Finally, some politics have accused the Manif’ pour Tous to legitimate homophobic speeches and acts.

And after the promulgation…

What does the law say?

The law allows same-sex couples to get married, and adopt. Marriage creates mutual obligations but also advantages and security for each married. It does not say a word about surrogacy, still forbidden in France for any couple. This law leads to equal rights for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Since the law is passed in May 2013 and accepted by the Constitutional Council, the Manif’ pour Tous has not weakened as noticed with the recent demonstration in October 2014, with a number of participants estimated between 500 000 according to the movement and 70 000 for the Police. A victory for the participants who not only want to pressure François Hollande and his team, but also send a signal for the next political elections in France. They want to be heard. And still the same message: the French family is in danger.

On what do they based their claim? Sacrilege of the wedding, of “natural”conception and of children’s rights that would be in danger – in other words to preserve the ‘traditional family.’

They won’t give up, and they are encouraged by their successful demonstrations. This time, it’s for two things, according to the official website of the movement. First, the abrogation of the Taubira Law – which would create insecurity for the 7000 couples already married in 2013. Second, to manifest their aversion to the surrogacy of whom government has already said that the legalisation is not discussed in France, and the Assisted Reproductive Technology for homosexual couples- which is not allowed as well.

A few widespread factors explain Manif’ pour Tous’ success in France: a certain Christian heritage, conservative mind-set, a tradition of going down in the streets to protest, and a rejection of the socialist policy of Francois Hollande.If you make a detour by their website, you will notice that they do not only denounce Taubira’s law but interfere now with the politics in general- as you can see with their article against the end of the universal amount of family allowance (the government wants to reduce the amount for the richest families). Thus, It is becoming a real political movement with opinions on political French affairs and laws, trying to gain head on the moral issues of the time, based on the defence of traditional Family and conservative values.

These demonstrations have revealed a split between the French population, and a stron conservative mind still existing in the French society. This law may be a new start for future generations to not be questioned anymore about it. At the dawn of 2015, the battle for equal rights for homosexual couples in France is not over yet and Manif’ pour Tous leads as the symbol of a movement that does not accept a changing France.

Written by Pauline Sani
Image credits: wikipedia and huffington post (creative commons)

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Dieudonne, Hollande and Anelka: French Fast News

This week in France has seen developments in several news stories which shine a light on some of the complexities of French society today. The Bottom Line series continues, as Jennifer Campbell explores two very different stories, alongside their international reception and wider implications.

THE PRIVATE LIFE of French President Francois Hollande has, unavoidably, been the focus of intense scrutiny in the past week. After rumours circulated about his alleged affair with French actress Julie Gayet, the President’s partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was admitted to hospital; and on Saturday 25th January, Hollande confirmed their separation in a press conference. The British media, in predictable ‘Franglish’ fashion, have christened this “Le Split”.

Traditionally, the private lives of politicians in France was seen as ‘off-limits’ and somewhat of an Anglo-Saxon obsession; but some journalists argue that the so-called ‘peopolisation’ of French politics did not occur only with the advent of 24-hour news and Closer magazine. Le Figaro, in light of recent events, provides a run-down of Presidential scandals from De Gaulle to Hollande, suggesting that this apparent ‘French exception’ may have never really existed at all. 6689847163_59c3012a12_o-1

French Closer magazine printed the original reports of an affair, once again courting controversy as it did in 2012 by publishing topless photographs of Kate Middleton.   The Independent examines France’s growing taste for gossip (willing supplied by “la presse people”) – despite strict privacy laws which mean that magazines like Closer are pursued in the courts on a regular basis.

Le Monde, on the other hand, analyses international press coverage of the scandal, noting that it “continues to make the headlines” in British newspapers, which “express their surprise at French people’s lack of desire to know the secrets of their President’s bedroom”. The authors note the prominence of this story in newspapers across Europe, something that may well surprise many French readers.

Overall, it seems that “L’affaire Hollande-Gayet” has provided an insight into the changing notions of privacy, celebrity, and what constitutes news in France. With Britain currently experiencing a backlash against years of tabloid-led privacy intrusions, it is particularly interesting to see France, a country with very different press and political cultures, beginning to face up to similar issues.

ANOTHER PROMINENT STORY which has been making headlines both in France and elsewhere in the past week is the controversy surrounding French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (known by his stage name of Dieudonné) and the long-running allegations against him of anti-semitism. This was brought to international attention when Nicholas Anelka, a French footballer playing for English team West Bromwich Albion, celebrated a goal by performing a “quenelle”. This gesture, which some believe looks like an inverted Nazi salute, was created by Dieudonné and is often imitated by his fans, who argue it is an anti-establishment (and not anti-semitic) symbol. The comedian, however, has several convictions for ‘hate speech’: The Guardian reports that he has accumulated fines totalling €65,000 for this.

Dieudonné’s controversial show has been banned by the French authorities, provoking debate over freedom of speech and, as The Guardian reports, leading to a “spike” in his popularity.

Nicolas_Anelka_1In Le Monde, journalist and documentary-maker Michaël Prazan reacts to this debate and discusses the issue from the point of view of French history and society; arguing that Dieudonné is following a tradition of “specifically French anti-Semitism”, which always features some form of “mockery, derision or outrageousness”. While some might defend the freedom of comedians to shock, this writer argues that “the damage inflicted on French society is considerable”, noting the influence on young people as a particular concern.

However, Britain’s Financial Times reports the opinions of some of Dieudonné’s fans, with one student arguing that “Dieudonné’s references to Jews are no worse than the abuse long suffered by his own Muslim community”.

Le Monde also analyses the comedian’s fan base, remarking that it is broad and heterogeneous, including people of various ethnic origins and political persuasions, who come together “to share in the thrilling pleasure of transgressing the ultimate taboo: the Holocaust”. Some of the young fans quoted in the article express their feeling of being taught about the Holocaust too much in school, at the expense of other tragedies of history such as the Rwandan genocide and slavery.  One claims that through this, they are “subjected to a mentality of guilt from an early age”.

The recent reappearance of Dieudonné in the headlines brings these complex issues in French society to the fore, and draws attention to France’s laws on holocaust denial (known as the ‘loi Gayssot’) and on hate speech – both of which have given rise to controversial cases in recent years. With several British newspapers claiming that Dieudonné is to visit London, both to lend his support to Nicholas Anelka and to perform a show, the UK may too see similar debates being reignited.