French President Emmanuel Macron says France will tighten its laws on child sexual abuse, after the publication of a book accusing a top French political commentator of abusing his stepson and a massive social media campaign on the issue.
Macron said on his Twitter account on Saturday that France needs to adapt its laws to better protect children from sexual violence and he had asked the justice minister to chair a consultation aimed at quickly making legislative proposals.
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“We will go after the aggressors,” Macron said.
Macron said France had already increased the statute of limitations on incest to 30 years, counted from the legal age of majority of the victims, and had tightened controls on people working with children, but he said much more needed to be done.
He said that as part of current routine medical examinations for children, France would introduce sessions about 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 sexual crimes would be made available.
“Today shame is switching sides” from victims to perpetrators, Macron said in a video posted to Twitter, welcoming the fact that “people feel free to speak everywhere in France”.
“We are here. We’re 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 tell their stories of incest and childhood sexual abuse – often under the hashtag #MeTooInceste – after the publication of the book accusing French professor and constitutional specialist Olivier Duhamel of abusing his stepson.
The book was written by Duhamel’s stepdaughter Camille Kouchner, daughter of former foreign minister and founder of NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, known as MSF) Bernard Kouchner.
#metooinceste. My earliest memory was when I must have been 6 years young . My older brother…. only recently told my parents but as expected, they do not believe me. I am now 59 .
— 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 ❤️ #MeTooInceste
— Angélique Bernabé (@AngeJBe) January 18, 2021
Duhamel resigned earlier this month from his post overseeing Sciences Po, one of France’s top universities, following the publication of the book.
“Being the object of personal attacks and wanting to preserve the institutions in which I work, I put an end to my functions,” he said on Twitter on January 4.
Neither Duhamel nor his lawyer has commented on the accusations dating back to the 1980s.
Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal has ordered an inspection at Sciences Po to determine responsibilities and potential failings.
The World Health Organization say international studies show that one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged under 18.
Experts say sexual abuses are likely to be underrreported amid the secrecy that often surrounds the issue.