France bolsters measures to tackle violence against women
Since 2012, the government has been taking action to reduce violence against women and provide victims with protection. Significant progress has been made thanks to the 4th Action Plan to Combat and Prevent Violence against Women (2014-2016). There is better identification of acts of violence and greater support for victims: 3919 helpline (Violences Femmes info) staff listen and offer guidance to an increasing number of women (average of 50,000 calls a year); there are 327 registered local advice centres; 1,550 shelter places for female victims have been created; 530 “serious danger”¹ helpline centres have been rolled out across the country; over 300,000 professionals have been trained. There is greater recognition and reporting of violence against women.
To go further, on 23 November 2016 the government launched a 5th plan to combat “all” forms of violence against women. This three-year action plan (2017-2019) contains 122 measures to reduce the “tragically static” number of victims. Between 2017 and 2019 a total of €125 million will be committed to financing the plan’s measures. The plan sets three objectives:
1/ Tighten measures in place for women victims of violence to make it easier for them to access support and their rights: 3919 helpline staff and social workers in police stations will be increased and training routinely given to professionals (doctors, police, gendarmes, firefighters, social workers etc.). The number of emergency refuge places for women victims of violence will rise to 2,000 and greater use will be made of emergency protection measures (eviction of spouse/partner, restraining order and TGD¹). Consideration will be given to ways in which rape victims can formally report attacks and time limits for bringing a prosecution. Counselling will be developed and support for these women’s integration into the workplace tailored to their individual situations.
2/ Increase public action where needs are greatest: children who witness violence are also victims. This is why the coordination of support for women victims of violence and children must be improved and mothers and children protected during and after separation. This will involve increased support for dedicated facilities and the trialling of “supervised meeting spaces” and “supervised access visits”. 100 special refuge places will be created for young women aged 18-25. Local agencies will also be called on to help with getting the women back into employment. In some rural areas facilities may be more scarce. Permanently staffed services will be created in the Public Service Centres (Maisons de service au public-MSAPs) and training agreements offered to voluntary organizations in rural areas. Mobility will be facilitated by trials of a system for paying the women’s transport costs in 25 departments.
3/ Tackle the root cause of violence by fighting sexism, which trivializes the violence and rape culture: campaigns will be conducted to continue the work of deconstructing stereotypes which are a breeding ground for violence against women. This is completely in line with the Plan for action and mobilization against sexism, launched in September 2016. 11,000 posters will be displayed in France and put on social networks, with messages such as: “Rape is never caused by a short skirt. It’s always caused by a rapist”; “Love and jealousy don’t kill. Sexism does”.
“Violence against women dates back centuries and happens all over the world. These acts may be economically, physically, morally and/or sexually motivated. We are confronting all of them. We are fighting to stop their trivialization by using the right words for them. We are fighting to stop victims feeling alone and isolated. We are fighting the impunity of the perpetrators. We have the means. We have the will. We owe it to the women to deliver results.” (L. Rossignol 23/11/16).
¹ Téléphone Grave Danger (TGD) is a mobile phone with an emergency button, allowing victims in serious danger to call a special 24/7 helpline which locates them and requests immediate police intervention.