French ministers in classroom for anti-sexism lessons

Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:30am EDT
 
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By Vicky Buffery

PARIS (Reuters) - Ministers in France's new Socialist government are attending anti-sexism courses with presentations on stereotyping, inappropriate language and tips on how to avoid gaffes.

The hour-long classes, which also cover wage disparity and domestic violence, were the brainchild of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, head of the newly recreated Women's Rights Ministry and also the government's official spokeswoman.

The sessions are part of an effort to weed out casual sexism in politics in a nation with a tradition of ignoring the occasional pestering of female subordinates by men in power.

Allegations over the conduct of Socialist politician and ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's triggered a soul-searching debate in France last year.

He was days away from announcing he would run for the presidency when police arrested him in New York after a hotel maid alleged he had tried to rape her. New York prosecutors later dropped the charges.

Wolf-whistles in parliament at a female minister in the new government added to concerns some coaching may be needed.

"The ministers have loved it," a government source said of the course. "They're coming up with ideas on where and how they can put it into practice."

In one session, broadcast on French television, Social Economy Minister Benoit Hamon is seen analyzing stereotypes in a recruitment advert for male and female drivers.   Continued...

 
France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (L) sits with the Minister for Women's Rights and Government Spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem at the National Assembly in Paris October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau