The French leader says the country must better protect children as victims share testimonies of abuse on social media.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said France will toughen its laws on child sexual abuse, after the publication of a book accusing a leading French political commentator of abusing his stepson and a massive media campaign social on the issue.
Macron said on his Twitter account on Saturday that France had to adapt its laws to better protect children from sexual violence and he had asked the Minister of Justice to chair a consultation aimed at quickly making legislative proposals.
“We will go after the aggressors,” Macron said.
Macron said France had already increased the statute of limitations for incest to 30, counting from the legal age of the majority of victims, and had tightened controls on people working with children, but he has stated that much more needed to be done.
He said that as part of the current routine medical examinations for children, France would introduce sessions on incest in primary and secondary schools to give children a chance to talk about the issue.
The French president also said that better psychological help for victims of sex crimes would be made available.
“Today, the shame is to change sides” from the victims to the perpetrators, Macron said in a video posted on Twitter, welcoming the fact that “people feel free to speak all over France”.
“We are here. We are listening to you. We believe you. And you will never be alone again.
Social media campaign
In recent weeks, hundreds of people have taken to social media to share their stories of childhood incest and sexual abuse – often under the hashtag #MeTooInceste – after the publication of the book accusing the French professor and constitutional expert Olivier Duhamel for having abused his stepson.
The book was written by Duhamel’s daughter-in-law, Camille Kouchner, daughter of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and founder of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (Médecins Sans Frontières, known as MSF) Bernard Kouchner.
#metooincest. My first memory goes back to when I must have been 6 years old. My older brother…. recently told my parents but as expected they don’t believe me. I am now 59 years old.
– Stefaan Verlinde (@StefVerlinde) January 19, 2021
After sharing my story with friends, colleagues or acquaintances: I have heard so many other similar stories. This crime is underreported, so many survivors around us. You are all strong and deserve justice and healing ❤️ #MeTooIncest
– Angelique Bernabé (@AngeJBe) January 18, 2021
Duhamel resigned earlier this month from his supervisory post at Sciences Po, one of France’s top universities, following the book’s publication.
“Being the object of personal attacks and wanting to preserve the institutions in which I work, I have terminated my functions,” he said on Twitter on January 4.
Neither Duhamel nor his lawyer have commented on the charges dating back to the 1980s.
The Minister of Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal, ordered an inspection at Sciences Po to determine the responsibilities and potential shortcomings.
According to the World Health Organization, international studies show that one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused when they were under the age of 18.
Experts say sexual abuse is likely to be underestimated amid the secrecy often surrounding the issue.