March Against Gender Violence: Thousands Gather Across France

On Saturday, several women gathered across France to march in protest of the nation’s high levels of female deaths caused specifically by domestic violence. Taking place, fittingly, on the international day for the elimination of violence against women, as declared by the United Nations, the protests advocate for an end to femicide and utilize the colors white and purple. The largest condemnation gatherings took place in Paris, France’s capital, and were intended to place pressure on the government before its announcement of their apparent plans to address the issue on Monday, according to The Guardian. It is because France has received international praise for its record of workplace equality, that its high rates of domestic violence and femicide go largely unprotested and sometimes even ignored. On Saturday, however, more than thirty marches took place across France, including the participation of nearly seventy organizations, political parties and unions, as reported by The Guardian.

Nearly all outlets covering the story have noted that the French President, Emmanuel Macron has declared deadly domestic violence to be “France’s shame.” According to NBC News, lawyers and other authorities on the subject say that the new national conversation, which includes France’s domestic violence and deaths protests, and the increased use of the term “femicide,” is “encouraging” and marks an element of progress from the former “decades of denial.” According to both the French feminist collective, #NousToutes (All of Us) and Al Jazeera, 100,000 participants gathered in Paris and 150,000 showed up across the country, making it “the biggest march against gender-based violence in French history.”

France’s protests against femicide and domestic violence were achieved within a larger structure of active opposition to misogyny, which was in many ways reignited by the results of the 2016 election in the United States, and a general populist governance resurgence over the past five years. While much of the history of French political culture depends upon frequent civic protest in communication with French bureaucrats and politicians, the causes for which the French advocate are not necessarily always progressive or leftist. What these protests show, beside the femicide and domestic violence data, is that the rhetorical French model of putting one’s “Frenchness” distinctly before any other aspect of one’s identity is largely transcended by gender identities and systemic gender essentialism. Overall, a peaceful response to an inherently violent injustice should be applauded, and it remains to be seen, as yet, what Macron’s government will propose as a solution to such a crisis.

NBC News has reported that in 2014, the European Union administered a survey to 42,000 women across its twenty-eight member states and found that, compared to the global average of thirty percent, a smaller percentage of French participants (twenty six percent) reported that they had been “abused by a partner since the age of fifteen.” It is, however, above the average of the EU, and is the sixth highest national percentage in the EU. Saturday’s protests must also be situated in the context of France’s Yellow Vest Movement, which began about a year ago in late 2018, and hosts extremely well-attended protests across France on Saturdays. The comparison of the Yellow Vests’ overall messaging, which utilizes French nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment, with that of the protests against violence against women and domestic violence more generally, indicates that the tradition of protest in France knows no political pole, nor time frame.

World peace spans much further than anti-war, anti-militarist sentiment; in a lot of ways, in fact, it begins at home. To gather and march not for the rhetorical guarantee of gender equity alone, but its actualization both publicly and privately, is to pursue and advocate for peace in general, and peace for women. These demonstrations announce to governments that the civic engagement and expression of governmental opposition means the public does not only pay attention to social inequality, but they care, as well.