France remains ‘highly sexist in all spheres of life’, says study

A study has highlighted “alarming” proportions of sexism in France, noting that women are facing new forms of harassment including online violence, verbal abuse on social media and pornography with “barbaric” content.

The study —a first of its kind in France—conducted by the High Authority on Equality (HCE), a consultative body, surveyed 2,500 people and found sexist behaviour increasing in “all spheres”.

It noticed a particular increase in men believing violent and discriminatory behaviour against women to be acceptable.

The study highlighted how older men still held conservative attitudes towards male and female roles in society, while the younger men occasionally displayed aggressive macho tendencies.

Taking the case of the #MeToo movement—which created waves around the world in which women revealed how they were abused by men in power—the study detected a male backlash against the movement, with French men seeking “to reduce women to silence or discredit them”.

Despite people being aware of the violence and discrimination since the #MeToo movement “bias and gender stereotypes, sexist cliches and everyday sexism are still commonplace”, the HCE found.

It stated that situations of “discrimination, violence and harassment” have reached “alarming proportions”.

According to its findings, 24 per cent of the women aged 18-24 surveyed said that they were subjected to “psychological control or excessive jealousy” by a partner, while 15 per cent admitting that they had been beaten by their partner or ex-partner. For women aged 50-64, this rose to 20 per cent.

More than 37 per cent of the women polled said they had been subject to non-consensual sex.

The HCE further broke down the figures and revealed that 33 per cent of women had sex when they did not want to but their partner insisted, 12 per cent had unprotected sex at the insistence of their partner. This figure rose to 18 per cent in the 25-34 age group.

“People recognise and deplore the existence of sexism but fail to reject it in practice, a phenomenon particularly widespread among the men questioned. This gap between perception, statements and practice has tangible consequences in terms of symbolic, physical, sexual and economic violence,” the report said.

The HCE president, Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, said that she was not surprised with the findings.

“We wanted to do for sexism what has been done for racism,” Pierre-Brossolette told the Guardian.

“It’s not enough to protect women and punish men. If we don’t address the roots of everyday sexism and change the mentality we will never move forward. We cannot just deplore the situation we need to change it.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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