Questions You Should be Asking the World Around You
Remember when Snopes called ‘No-Go-Zones’ a myth? Well France’s equality minister Marlene Schiappa, went out to prove just that in an undercover expose, that was later posted to Twitter. Except that a number of women spoke up and rebuked Schiappa for playing down the problem!
BBC June 14, 2017
When France’s new Sexual Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa visited an area of northern Paris notorious for women being harassed on the street, it seemed a good idea.
That was until she publicised her under-cover trip on Twitter with photos designed to show there were no “no-go areas for women” in France.
Critics accused her of staging the visit and playing down the problem.
Her photos were quickly deleted and were blamed on a public relations slip.
However, French media had already captured the pictures, which showed Ms Schiappa walking alone in a dress past a group of men on a central street in the north-eastern area of La Chapelle-Pajol.
Accompanying the images was the message: “The Republic’s laws protect women and apply every hour of the day and everywhere.”
Ms Schiappa is new to national politics and one of President Emmanuel Macron’s rising stars from civil society. Before joining his centrist party, she was best known for setting up a network of working mothers and was deputy mayor of the city of Le Mans.
Last month, La Chapelle-Pajol hit the headlines when local women took to the streets to protest that their area was becoming a no-go area for women.
A group, SOS LA Chapelle, launched a petition under the title: “Women, an endangered species in the heart of Paris.” They said the main square and nearby streets had become men-only zones.
Paris authorities have acknowledged the “strong feeling of insecurity” in the area, amid complaints of drug-trafficking and pickpocketing, as well as intimidation and harassment.
With France in the midst of an election campaign, the issue became political and critics suggested that the campaign had become caught up in anti-immigrant sentiment. The area has a large immigrant population and Porte de la Chapelle, a short distance away, has become home to migrants living outside in poor conditions.
After the photos were taken down, her office issued a statement (in French) setting out the local groups Ms Schiappa had met and detailing her efforts to tackle sexual discrimination in La Chapelle. She had visited the area anonymously on Monday and would return at a later date.
Centre-right politician Pierre Liscia was unimpressed, complaining of an “appalling attitude” that treated local women with contempt and ridicule. The only point of her night-time visit had been to show that nothing was wrong in the district.
A number of others took to social media to criticise the minister’s trip.
“Marlène Schiappa walks around for five minutes in Pajol without being harassed and demands a medal,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Her mistake was to tell everyone who felt attacked and insulted that they’d dreamt it all up,” complained another.
Dailymail December 14, 2016
French women who have been effectively banned from cafés and bars in certain ‘no-go’ suburbs in the country are fighting back.
Journalists and activists for TV channel France 2 went undercover in various communities with high Islamic populations in Paris to show how conservative Muslim men are enforcing social segregation in public spaces.
In the secret footage, activists Nadia Remand and Aliza Sayah from women’s rights campaign group La Brigade des Mères (Brigade of Mothers) enter a shop in Sevran: a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris.
‘The café terraces and the streets have something in common: women seem to have been erased,’ Journalist Caroline Sinz narrated:
The group was told by a customer in the shop: ‘It’s best to wait outside. There are men in here.’
Another said: ‘In this café, there is no diversity.’
Outraged, one of the activists asked the manager of the store what it would be like if he wanted to go to a café with a female relative who was denied entry.
‘My cousin stays at home,’ he said. ‘My cousin can do what she wants, but not with me.’
‘In this café, there is no mixing. We are in Sevran, not Paris. Here there is a different mentality. It is like back home,’ he added.
In Lyon, a city farther south, France 2 journalist Sinz spoke to a young woman who said she makes sure to be very careful in how she dresses.
She said she will often wear baggy clothes and no makeup to avoid being targeted by the Muslim men in the neighbourhood.
‘I’m afraid, simple as that,’ she said, when asked why she feels she must alter her appearance.
The undercover report was called an ‘intolerable’ example of ‘discrimination against women’ by Axelle Lemaire, the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs and Innovation.
‘There are now areas in our country where women can no longer go,’ Pascale Boistard, the women’s rights minister, added.
Gender inequality in certain parts of Paris was exacerbated following urban riots in 2005, when conservative Muslim men took control of various neighbourhoods, including Sevran.
Now, feminist group Collectif des Femmes often hosts marches to streets that are dominated by Muslim men in an effort to encourage the group to diversify.
But for many women who live in Sevran, Lyon or elsewhere, their daily lives are still routinely censored.
‘They are afraid, they have already spoken out in many cities, and were insulted and assaulted,’ Sinz told Franceinfo.
‘So now to avoid threats, and being put under pressure, they censor themselves and keep quiet.’
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