The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the ninth periodic report of France, with Committee Experts commending the State for its feminist foreign policy, and asking about female genital mutilation and femicide.
A Committee Expert complimented France for its feminist foreign policy and for creating a dedicated Ministry responsible for ensuring equality between women and men, as well as the inter-ministerial committee chaired by the head of delegation. The issuance of the inter-ministerial plan was also commendable.
Another Committee Expert asked if the monitoring committee for the national action plan on female genital mutilation had met this year, and if so, what were the outcomes of those meetings? What initiatives had been taken to implement the national action plan? What were the results of those initiatives? More than 8,000 children were under the French office of protection due to the risk of female genital mutilation; how many children were under protection and how many women who lived in France had undergone female genital mutilation? How were they supported? Could the Committee be updated as to the progress of a new study on female genital mutilation?
One Expert said France had taken important steps to combat domestic violence, including strengthening provisions against sexual harassment and assault. Despite this, gender-based violence continued to be prevalent. A study found that 208,000 acts of violence were committed by a partner in 2021. Could updated statistics on femicide be provided? Did the definition of “murder within a couple” fail to define femicide properly? How many shelters were government run and funded? Were they accessible? Were there plans to strengthen consent laws around cases of sexual assault?
The delegation said in 2019, France had created a national action plan on female genital mutilation, which strove to raise awareness of the practice, and train professionals on supporting victims and raising awareness amongst young girls who were most at risk. With respect to victims, mechanisms for their support and care had been put in place since 2020, and if necessary, reparative surgery would be provided. Following the results of a survey, work was underway to draft a plan to combat female genital mutilation in the Ile de France region. Over 20,000 children had obtained refugee status and were under protection by the French Government.
The delegation said since 2006, France had been identifying femicide as death within the couple. Previously it had been thought that spousal violence related to the couple. It was vital to reduce the number of femicides. To do this, it was important to support women known to the police and the justice system, and those known to staff at the schools their children attended. The police force had been trained and provided with the tools to take complaints and identify potential victims.
Introducing the report, Bérangère Couillard, Minister with responsibility for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister of France, and head of delegation, said since France’s last hearing before the Committee, the country had deeply changed. The President, after his election in 2017, had claimed gender equality as his major priority. In its fight against gender-based and sexual violence, France had made significant progress in recent years. Following a wave of emotion due to several femicides in the media in 2019, a public debate was held devoted to the fight against domestic violence. Five bills accompanied this and led to a number of important advances. The right to abortion was a major right in France. France had adopted two national action plans for the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Couillard thanked the Committee for the deep and rich discussion and their questions on many issues. This had been a demanding dialogue, but France needed to continue to be ambitious.
Ana Peláez Narváez, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee which helped the Experts to better understand the situation of women and girls in France. The State party was commended on its efforts and encouraged to implement all the recommendations provided by the Committee.
The delegation of France was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination; the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of the Armed Forces; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Interior and Overseas; the Inter-ministerial Mission for the protection of women against violence and the fight against human trafficking; the Inter-ministerial delegation in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and hatred and anti-LGBT; the Ministry of Health and Prevention; the Ministry of National Education and youth; the Ministry of Sports and the Olympic Games and Paralympics; the Ministry of Transformation and Public Services; the Ministry of Work, Full Employment and Integration; and the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-sixth session is being held from 9 to 27 October. All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 October to review the fifth periodic report of Albania (CEDAW/C/ALB/5).
The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of France (CEDAW/C/FRA/9).
Presentation of Report
BÉRANGÈRE COUILLARD, Minister with responsibility for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister of France, and head of delegation, said since France’s last hearing before the Committee, the country had deeply changed. The President, after his election in 2017, had claimed gender equality as his major priority. The Convention guided France's actions in all areas. The Government participated in disseminating the Convention to the general public, and the Ministry of Equality published statistical data on men and women every year.
The COVID-19 pandemic had put many women at risk, and France's first priority was to protect women, particularly victims of domestic violence. In March 2020, France put in place an emergency plan to protect victims of domestic violence, and a budget of one million euros was released to support grassroot associations and open accommodation facilities.
In its fight against gender-based and sexual violence, France had made significant progress in recent years. Following a wave of emotion due to several femicides in the media in 2019, a public debate was held devoted to the fight against domestic violence. Five bills accompanied this and led to a number of important advances, including a 24-hour hotline for victims, the training of more than 150,000 police officers and gendarmes in domestic and sexual violence, including 100 per cent of students who graduated from police and gendarmerie schools, and an 80 per cent increase in emergency accommodation places, reaching more than 11,000 places in 2023, among others.
For a decade, France had also pursued a comprehensive public policy to combat trafficking in human beings. A law was promulgated in 2016, which aimed at strengthening the fight against the prostitution system and supporting people in prostitution, and France would continue to strengthen this law. France was also working on the development of a plan that included strong cross-cutting measures to combat all forms of trafficking, specific to each form of trafficking.
Since 2017, the professional situation of women had also improved in France, however, women’s average income in France was still 24 per cent lower than that of men in the private sector in 2021. France had set up an equality index in 2019, which allowed companies to measure wage gaps, identify areas of improvement, and implement the necessary corrective measures. As of 2022, France began imposing progress targets on any company with a score below 85 points out of 100. Companies that did not report and those which had not implemented the corrective actions would be sanctioned. France also tackled the issue of women's places in governing bodies. The "Rixain" law, which imposed a quota of 30 per cent by 2026 and 40 per cent by 2029 in the top management of large companies, was bearing fruit.
For the first time in 2017, France adopted a National Sexual Health Strategy 2017-2030, to define a global approach to sexual and reproductive health, which aimed to strengthen access to HIV and other sexually transmitted infection testing as well as actions focusing on the most vulnerable populations. A national strategy to combat endometriosis had also been adopted. The inter-ministerial plan for equality between women and men included an axis entirely dedicated to women's health. The free and widespread vaccination campaign against the human papillomavirus for fifth grade students had been implemented.
The right to abortion was a major right in France, and the country had extended the time limit for abortion from 12 to 14 weeks, allowed midwives to perform surgical abortions in hospitals, and removed the need for a psychological interview after an abortion request. By enshrining abortion in the Constitution, France was sending an unequivocal message to women that this was their right. In 2021, France adopted a law which allowed all women to have access to medically assisted reproduction, including female couples and single women. It also passed a law in 2022 to ban practices that sought to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, also known as "conversion therapy." France had appointed an Ambassador for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender plus persons and last July adopted a plan for equality against anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender plus hatred and discrimination.
The armed conflicts spreading across the globe were impacting women. France had adopted two national action plans for the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. Russia's war of aggression was a reminder of the need for the full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. France played a leading role in advocating to mobilise the international community in support of the women, peace and security agenda in all relevant forums and within the Security Council.
To combat all forms of violence against women, France regularly called on all States to accede to the Istanbul Convention. France would celebrate its tenth anniversary of entry into force in 2024. Regarding the climate crisis, the French Government was studying a report by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council published in March 2023 entitled: "Gender inequalities, climate crisis and ecological transition", which offered recommendations for further integration of the gender perspective into climate and transition policies. France was ready to listen to the Committee and would rely on its expertise.
Presentation by National Human Rights Institution
MAGALI LAFOURCADE, Secretary-General of the National Advisory Commission on Human Rights of France, said the Commission welcomed France's commitment to an ambitious feminist diplomacy and was pleased with the new international strategy on sexual and reproductive rights 2023-2027. The Commission encouraged France to implement its women, peace and security action plan. Nationally, there was a gap between the Government’s perception of its actions and the reality noted by civil society on the ground. Although domestic violence in France was better studied, conviction rates remained low. To provide more effective protection for victims, efforts should be made to better articulate judicial decisions in criminal and civil cases. The overly restrictive definition of rape severely limited the possibility of conviction and made the criminal process of complainants difficult. The Commission encouraged France to amend the criminalisation of rape to include the concept of consent, in accordance with the Istanbul Convention, which it had ratified.
Studies showed that almost all women with disabilities had experienced sexual violence, particularly migrant women. The prevention of gender-based and sexual violence was a blind spot in public policy and the Commission encouraged authorities to make this a priority. The index of equality in the workplace was promising, but recent analysis showed that it was poorly designed and had no real impact on the evolution of the wage gap. In addition, studies showed that wealth inequality between women and men was widening, with women more affected by precariousness, particularly women in single parent situations, where a third lived in poverty. Many women from all over the world were victims of human trafficking in France and the Commission was concerned about the lack of political will in this regard.
Questions by Committee Experts
CORINNE DETTMMEIJER, Country Rapporteur for France, said since the last dialogue, gender equality had become the great cause for the President. The Committee commended the State party for the steps taken. The Committee was concerned about the victims of the nuclear testing in French Polynesia. The annual report on sexism in France showed an alarming situation; what measures were being taken to improve this situation? What measures was the State party taking to enforce mandatory due diligence in the deployment of algorithmic profiling to ensure this upheld the principles of the Convention? Had the actions taken since 2017 to improve the visibility of the Convention been evaluated? What was the outcome? Could the State party provide details of capacity building projects on the Convention? Could data be provided on reparations for victims of discrimination? There was no legal definition of femicide in the legal code. Would the State party consider adopting specific legislation to address femicide? How had the State party improved support for victims when filing a complaint?
A Committee Expert said the pandemic had had major repercussions on women’s physical and mental health. To what extent did the State party intend to take measures to ensure the pandemic no longer had long term impacts? What measures had been taken to address the high levels of domestic violence during the pandemic?
Responses by the Delegation
BÉRANGÈRE COUILLARD, Minister with responsibility for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister of France, and head of delegation, said the work being done to combat gender inequalities was being carried out at all levels across all ministries. It was very important to have this openness. Being attached to the Prime Minister’s Office was symbolic and reminded all members of the Government that gender equality was a priority. France had recognised the right to reparation to the harm done by nuclear tests in Algeria and French Polynesia, and a law had been established in this regard.
There were ongoing efforts with the public prosecutor’s office to establish a clear anti-discrimination policy. A committee was in place to combat hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons. Recourse in domestic law regarding the Convention was still quite weak, however, French constitutional law established the principle of equality which prohibited discrimination against women. This right was ensured in the Constitution. The Constitution ensured equality and stipulated that equality before the law was valid for all citizens. There was no legal obstacle for magistrates or judges to use provisions of the Convention.
Regarding femicide, this was quite a new word, for which users had previously been mocked. Now it was quite common and even used in reports drafted by ministries. It was important to continue to use the term femicide; today in France the term murder within couples was used, which meant no distinction between gender needed to be made. Since 2017, France had been focusing on wage inequality and the salary gap. This was the reason for the professional index.
With regard to the pandemic, France worked on different spheres, including employment and women victims of domestic violence. During the pandemic, France set up a strict lockdown which perturbed economic activity. The pandemic also highlighted the precarity of women frontline workers, and there were subsequent increases in salary which allowed women to be appreciated within French society. It was hoped that women would continue to be provided with more dignified salary conditions.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts and Responses by the Delegation
CORINNE DETTMMEIJER, Country Rapporteur for France, said it was good that the Convention was embedded within national law, but the fact that it was hardly referred to within the courts could indicate a lack of training. France should try and look at this further.
The delegation said the inter-ministerial mission was under the Ministry of Equality and comprised of agents from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Women’s Protection. The mission had devised a strategy to provide training to all frontline workers and provide pedological tools to support their work on the ground and identify victims of domestic violence.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said the Committee commended the French Government for all its progressive efforts in protecting the French population against the impacts of climate change and disasters through its different policies and actions, including the National Climate Adaptation Plan. France’s nominated membership to the Transitional Committee on the Loss and Damage Fund was also recognised. However, reports from credible sources showed that more needed to be done by the State party to strongly address climate change and its impacts.
What specific measures was the Government taking to fully implement the Paris Agreement in order to meet the specific needs of women and girls? What measures was the State party taking to ensure all policies and legislation incorporated disaster risk management? How was the full participation of women and girls in relation to climate change ensured? What deliberate actions had the Government taken to ensure its foreign policy funding strongly addressed the loss of rights suffered by women and girls in least developed countries? Had the State party undertaken a gender-sensitive risk assessment to ensure French arms were not used to commit violations against women and girls? What administrative and legislative measures had the French Government taken to ensure its commitment to the United Nations resolution on women, peace and security? France was commended for its foreign policy action centred around defending women’s rights. What steps had France taken to dedicate specific resources to implement the feminine diplomacy?
A Committee Expert complimented France for its feminist foreign policy and for creating a dedicated Ministry responsible for ensuring equality between women and men, as well as the inter-ministerial committee chaired by the head of delegation. The issuance of the inter-ministerial plan was also commendable. How were civil society organizations engaged in its implementation? Regarding the National Commission on Human Rights, how did the State party plan to implement recommendations made pertaining to its accreditation? France had some of the strictest legislation regarding religious symbols and clothing, which could contribute to discrimination against many women and girls. How was the State party working to address this? How did the State party work to combat stereotypes around sexual assault, including victim blaming? How did State party combat stereotypes around women with disabilities, especially in relation to employment? How did France combat stereotypes of women who were victims of revenge porn?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France was preparing for scenarios which were more catastrophic than those envisioned in the Paris Agreement. A proactive policy was in place when it came to reducing the emissions of certain industries. France was working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and aimed to obtain carbon neutrality by 2050. The issue of financial support for the countries of the South at COP27 was extremely important. France alone could not act on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Those countries affected needed to be supported and assisted. Women were increasingly present in the climate discussion, but more needed to be done.
Last June, a conference was held which addressed the restructuring of the financial structure, and also the aftermath of the war on Ukraine. France was involved in the initiatives of the World Food Programme and had made important proposals on access to food, for affordable prices, including for the African populations that were the most affected, with priority given to women and children. France had set up a new water plan in its overseas territories, adopted in 2016, to grapple with sanitation difficulties and water access in those territories. Measures had been adopted, including distributing bottled water to the islands and improving water access for students in schools.
Feminist diplomacy had been conducted for five years in France, which allowed resources for gender equality to be increased. France was committed to devoting 400 million euros for the forum of generation and equality, a beacon in their feminist diplomacy. To implement feminist diplomacy, it was important to support those on the ground, which was why France had established its first support fund and mobilised over 100 million euros in this regard. As part of the new diplomacy strategy from 2024 to 2028, France would be working on a collaborative process with all partners and civil society.
The arms industry in France was important and historic, but the safety of civilians was an ongoing concern. The export of military material and technology was subject to a comprehensive and demanding legal regime. France also took part in the European programme of action regarding the Arms Trade Treaty, with the aim to participate in cooperation activities.
The delegation said it was important to ensure that women were in positions of top-level management of companies and at the highest levels. Women’s representation in the media was progressing at all levels, and women made up almost 50 per cent of those working in television and radio. There was a significant drop in the number of female experts during COVID-19, while many men felt comfortable presenting their “expert” opinion. There was an initiative from the French regulator on media, which signed a charter to combat sexist stereotypes in advertising. There was a very strong commitment in this regard.
On the issue of the abaya being prohibited in schools, secularism was a fundamental principle in France, guaranteeing freedom of belief and freedom of neutrality in public space. Schools should be a sanctuary. Wearing ostentatious religious signs in public school was regulated by the 2004 law which prohibited any religious symbol which portrayed religious belonging, with a view to ensuring neutrality among all children. This was not about excluding but including, ensuring that religious belief was not an obstacle to integration.
There were increasingly violent themes in pornography, and the access of minors to pornography needed to be combatted. A draft bill was underway which would ensure de facto parental controls. The violence in videos needed to be addressed. A Working Group was being launched to take action on taking down online violent videos.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked, in view of the conflict in many countries, what was France’s agenda in promoting women’s participation in negotiations globally?
Another Committee Expert commended France on significant progress made on improving women’s rights around the country since 2016, including the establishment of the State Secretariat of Gender Equality. Several policies had been enacted, including the national action plan for eradicating female genital mutilation. However, there were still areas which required improvement. Had the monitoring committee for the national action plan on female genital mutilation met this year, and if so, what were the outcomes of those meetings? What initiatives had been taken to implement the national action plan? What were the results of those initiatives? More than 8,000 children were under the French office of protection due to the risk of female genital mutilation? How many children were under protection and how many women who lived in France had undergone female genital mutilation? How were they supported? Could the Committee be updated as to the progress of a new study on female genital mutilation?
France had taken important steps to combat domestic violence, including strengthening provisions against sexual harassment and assault. Despite this, gender-based violence continued to be prevalent. A study found that 208,000 acts of violence were committed by a partner in 2021. Could updated statistics on femicide be provided? Did the definition of “murder within a couple” fail to define femicide properly? How many shelters were government run and funded? Were they accessible? Were there plans to strengthen consent laws around cases of sexual assault? The Romeo and Juliette laws meant that minors as young as 13 could engage in sexual acts as long as the age gap was no more than five years. Would France consider amending the law or reducing the age gap? Would a sixth plan for combatting all violence against women be created?
A Committee Expert said since 2019, there had been fewer investigation cases in human trafficking in France. Could statistical data be provided? Trafficking in children had been made a priority by the Government. How did the French anti-trafficking policy protect unaccompanied children?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France was amongst the European countries which had the highest numbers of criminal prosecutions of acts of female genital mutilation since 1979, which had cemented a clear decline of the phenomenon across France. At the beginning of 2010, the number of women who had undergone female genital mutilation was 25,000, and 10 years later this number was 140,000. This was explained due to the change in size of the reference population and was linked to migratory flows. In 2019, France had created a national action plan on female genital mutilation, which strove to raise awareness of the practice, and train professionals on supporting victims and raising awareness amongst young girls who were most at risk. An awareness-raising campaign was rolled out before each summer holiday and conducted over social media for young persons.
With respect to victims, mechanisms for their support and care had been put in place since 2020, and if necessary, reparative surgery would be provided. Following the results of a survey, work was underway to draft a plan to combat female genital mutilation in the Ile de France region. Over 20,000 children had obtained refugee status and were under protection by the French Government. Their mothers had typically already been victims of female genital mutilation. In most cases, France would grant these women a ten-year residence status to remain on French territory and live with their children.
Since 2006, France had been identifying femicide as death within the couple. Previously it had been thought that spousal violence related to the couple. It was vital to reduce the number of femicides. To do this, it was important to support women known to the police and the justice system, and those known to staff at the schools their children attended. The police force had been trained and provided with the tools to take complaints and identify potential victims.
A high number of women were victims of violence, and there were only 100,000 danger phones, meaning more needed to be deployed. Whenever there was a shortage of stock, the Ministry of Justice placed an order, meaning stock was always available. Women who were victims of spousal violence were prioritised when it came to shelters. This prevented women victims of spousal violence from turning to the streets. In some cases, the perpetrators were removed from homes and placed in emergency shelters, to allow the women and children to remain at home.
On the topic of rape, France had a specific definition, which held four criteria: restraint, threat, surprise, and violence. The issue of the notion of consent needed to be added, and changed within European law, but France was more reserved on this issue. The notion of consent was not being called into question, but things were more complex in law. If you only addressed the issue of consent, the person who said yes in one situation did not necessarily mean consent. If you were under threat of violence and said yes, this meant you had not given your consent. The notion of consent should not mean France was less defined on the definition of rape. It was important to have well written laws which could be strictly applied. France needed to continue to take action, to ensure women were believed. The five-year gap prohibited sexual relations between an adult and a minor. It was possible that someone who was 18 could have a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old. The principle of the law was to combat sexual predators. There was no plan in place to reduce that gap.
Femicide was not defined in the Criminal Code. There was a possibility of assessing and having indicators on the number of women killed. The criminal law permitted judges to take into account all vulnerabilities of the female victim. Regarding support for those in prostitution who wished to leave it, several measures were provided, including social and labour integration and the issuance of a temporary stay permit for foreigners. Prostitutes were victims of a system and prostitution was a violation of their dignity. Particular focus would be paid to the sexual exploitation of minors.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said there was a growing number of underage girls involved in prostitution in France. What were the root causes of this phenomenon? How would it be restricted during the Olympic games? What was the status of the legal case submitted by case workers in Strasbourg?
Another Committee Expert said progress had been made to ensure women had clear access to public life in France. How many companies had appointed a focal point to combat harassment and sexism in the workplace? France had every right to be proud about its feminist foreign policy since 2019; one of only 16 countries to do so. Did France plan to adopt the recommendations contained in the review and when would this be done? Men held 86 per cent of positions in parliament; were the parity laws substandard? The rate of female mayors was extremely low, at around 19 per cent. Would France consider amending electoral laws?
Responses by the Delegation
BÉRANGÈRE COUILLARD, Minister with responsibility for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister of France, and head of delegation, said the sexual exploitation of minors in France was extremely concerning. She would be developing the first national strategy to combat prostitution, with a specific section on minors.
The delegation said that in recent years, there had been almost a doubling of French minor victims of trafficking. Non-governmental organizations estimated that the number of minor prostitutes was between 7,000 and 10,000 persons. A specialised department and unit had been established to pinpoint activity on social media. A safe centre had been financed for child victims of trafficking. An initial department to combat prostitution and trafficking had been established, which aimed to draft and implement strategic guidelines and coordinate all actions for victims.
A framework agreement was in place to assist women entrepreneurs, aiming to increase financing for women who wished to start a company, and to support women in doing so. Currently only 4 per cent of French startups were founded by women; the Rixiom law would help ensure an equality driver. France currently had almost managed to achieve parity across the board, although they had not yet reached 50 per cent. There were 26 per cent of female mayors which were still very low. The issue of quotas was reserved on this, as voting for a mayor was very important. The women mayors of today were the templates of the women mayors of tomorrow. Parity took time but if the quotas were imposed, then France would not get there.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if France had discussed using a list of candidates like Belgium, which took parity into consideration?
Another Committee Expert said there were achievements in education which warranted the Committee’s commendations. The Committee appreciated the implementation of the 2023–2027 gender equality plan to promote access to education in the field of digital technology for women and girls. The State party would also support 10,000 women in carrying out professions in technology. Would employment support for these women be provided? Online bullying and harassment had become a major factor impacting the education of girls. Did the State party have data on the assistance provided to girls who had been bullied?
One Committee Expert said legislation in the workplace was not effective against sexual harassment. Around 51 per cent of women said they had been discriminated against in the workplace due to their gender. What kind of measures did the State party plan to adopt to combat discrimination in the labour market, particularly for migrant women, those of African descent and those wearing head scarves, among others?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said artificial intelligence would first and foremost destroy women’s jobs, which was why it was important for women to have their place in so-called “future professions”, such as the ecological sector. A support service had been set up for 10,000 women to prepare them for these future professions. France aimed to set up empathy programmes in schools to reduce bullying. This would be launched in January 2024, and would be modelled on examples seen in neighbouring countries. This was ambitious but France was mobilised on this issue. In addition to the empathy classes, sex and life classes were established. France was setting up a bullying survey which would be important in obtaining data. It was hoped this would become a national event. New disciplinary measures had been established to tackle the most serious issues of bullying. There was a draft bill to secure the digital space, with the aim to target those who were committing bullying in the digital space and even ban some perpetrators from social networks.
France was committed to promote the access of migrant women to employment. This was done through providing training centres on employment services and also through an individualised care and support programme for refugees.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about legislation specifically prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace? How many women and girls were represented in the informal sector of employment?
Another Committee Expert asked if legislation would be adopted to ensure there was a sufficient number of staff practicing abortions in hospitals across France? How would it be ensured that annual directories of those conducting abortions were standardised? Would there be a national directory of abortions? It was concerning that 10 per cent of the people of Guadeloupe were contaminated by the chlordecone pesticide. Would France conduct investigations into this pesticide and offer reparations to victims? What would be done to provide those in Guadeloupe with drinking water and to fix the water and sanitation systems? What would be done to ensure women with disabilities had access to specific health care? How would equipment be adapted in line with their needs?
A Committee Expert asked if there were any targeted initiatives to consolidate the gender gap and sustain the participation of women and girls in technology and innovation? What hand holding schemes did large companies have to strengthen women-owned companies? Were any measures in place to promote gender-responsive procurement? How was inclusion being strengthened in cultural and sports policies? What plans were in place to mainstream gender in preparation for the 2024 Olympic games? What inclusive social benefit schemes existed for poor, vulnerable and marginalised women?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France was conducting numerous research initiatives pertaining to women’s health, including the national research project on endometriosis. The list of centres which provided abortions would be made available. The nature of the overseas territories meant there was a pressing issue of lack of water. In Guadeloupe, France had invested tens of millions of euros to ensure more access to water. France was committed to repairing the pipes and it was hoped the situation in these territories would improve.
The inter-ministerial plan “all equal” aimed to diversify opportunities for women. France had been active in the area of vocational training and had undertaken specific actions to ensure gender-mixed professions.
Exposure to environmental pollutants was a factor when it came to maternal and neo-natal mortality. France had a strategy to strengthen maternal health in overseas territories and had implemented a compulsory pre-natal interview which allowed the vulnerability of the mothers to be assessed. Since 2018, a comprehensive legal arsenal of measures had been put in place to address the consequences of chlordecone pollution. Support for people in their diets was provided to reduce the level of chlordecone in the blood. In Guadeloupe, specific support for pregnant women was in place and midwives had been trained on this issue.
The President had recently announced a new plan to develop sports teams, which included inclusive sport at school. Women’s sport was broadcast in the national media and it was ensured that rewards for female athletes were brought in line with men.
Since 2017, France had promoted extended maternity leave and ensured that freelancers could enjoy maternity leave the same as full time employers. A lot of work had been done on paternity leave as well, as fathers had a vital role to play with their new-born child and to ensure better sharing of tasks. There were 28 paternity days in France with a set number that fathers had to take. This was doubled from the original 14 days, and it was prohibited for a father to work within the first seven days of having a child.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if there was any possibility of considering compensation for victims of chlordecone pollution?
Another Expert asked if research had been done to assess the power dynamics within the family, particularly for low-earning or vulnerable women? Was there any tax credit system to address unpaid care?
A Committee Expert said some women in France had been sterilised; what measures had been taken to prohibit sterilisation on the grounds of disability? Would compensation be provided to victims?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said international texts such as the Istanbul Convention prohibited the practice of forced sterilisation. France was working towards its strict implementation.
Around 40 per cent of families in France were single-parent families and the social tax system took this into account.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked what efforts were being made to support women human rights defenders and journalists, particularly in the face of ongoing conflict. Women represented a quarter of French agricultural workers. What was being done to advance women’s leadership in agri-work, including in overseas territories? The 2023 pension reform aimed to redistribute funds towards women; how would this impact rural women? What special measures were available for women with disabilities to participate in the global economy? Would a scientific study on the impact of nuclear testing on women be considered?
Another Committee Expert asked if the State party recognised polygamy conducted in other countries? What support was provided to women or girls who used the SOS service for child marriage? Was there an SOS service for polygamy? What training did social workers receive to deal with cases of forced marriages or polygamy? Was mediation approved within the judicial system in cases of domestic violence?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France had made the protection of female human rights defenders a priority. It had several awards which were awarded to human rights defenders each year. Female award winners were specifically supported.
Since 1998, a law prohibited the collection of sensitive data. The situation of women with disabilities had not worsened that much compared to men who had disabilities. Looking at women’s forecasted pensions, there was a need to immediately enhance the pensions of women. During the recent retirement reform, a number of measures were taken for women, including preferential rates.
France had been losing farmers over the years and wanted to bolster these figures back. There was no specific policy for the overseas territories. There were only five per cent of women heading up farms which was where the challenge lay. France did not want to lose the capacity to feed the French population directly from French soil. The Government wanted to make farming more attractive and ensure more women could take up farming responsibilities and take over farms. A working group focused on female farmers was doing fantastic work supporting this group to help them stay in farming and join the industry. The delegation said polygamy ran counter to French public policies. Second and third wives were permitted to request asylum.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert asked how France would continue to provide protection for human rights defenders overseas to enable them to do their work?
How did the State party ensure quality protection for older women?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said there was a committee for the elderly. Retirement homes were not entirely satisfactory, so France was committed to a strategy which developed home services, including support or care which would enable people to stay at home to respect their independence. A public policy on the elderly was in place.
The Marianne initiative sought to provide public support for women human rights defenders living overseas, with the basis of the initiative being consent of the defender. Several tools were made available to these women to help them become more effective in their work as human rights defenders. Following the completion of the programme, embassies would follow up with these women and they were provided with assistance.
BÉRANGÈRE COUILLARD, Minister with responsibility for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister of France, and head of delegation, thanked the Committee for the deep and rich discussion and their questions on many issues. It was hoped that France had been able to highlight its ambitious policies. Ms. Couillard commended Committee Expert Nicole Ameline who was a trailblazer and thanked her for all the work she had done. This had been a demanding dialogue, but France needed to continue to be ambitious.
ANA PELÁEZ NARVÁEZ, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee which helped the Experts to better understand the situation of women and girls in France. The State party was commended on its efforts and encouraged to implement all the recommendations provided by the Committee.
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