Sexual violence in politics: how do parties collect and manage accusations and reports?

Recently appointed minister, the ex-LR Damien Abad is accused of rape by two women. LFI Taha Bouhafs had to withdraw from the legislative elections because of the suspicions against him. Cases are constantly emerging since #MeToo and the liberation of women’s speech. How are they managed within the parties? According to the Observatory of gender-based and sexual violence in politics created in February 2022, there are “a cultural difference” on the question of sexist and sexual violence: the left is attentive to these practices, the right is little interested in them, if at all. One thing is certain, even if some officials deny it, this sexual violence crosses all parties. The left, which wants to be in line with the demands for equality made in the post #MeToo context, must be attentive to these practices. On the right, on the other hand, we still have the impression of a discrediting of women’s voices. That the Abad or Darmanin cases did not emerge at LR shows that there is a problem, points out the Observatory.

>> Legislative 2022: faced with the legal troubles of their candidates, parties in embarrassment or indifference

EELV, the most advanced party

One of the most advanced parties on the subject of cases of sexual or gender-based violence is the environmentalist party, which was shaken by the Denis Baupin case six years ago. Europe-Ecologie-les-Verts has set up a “listening cell” which turned into “investigation and sanctions unit”. It deals with a maximum of ten cases each year, explains Sandra Regol, the number 2 of the party. “People who are not from the region and who are not related to the persons mentioned will deal with the case anonymously. They will listen to what the person says and then begin a process of summoning the persons concerned, interviews contradictory in order to be able to establish a proposal for a solution, for sanctions”she develops.

Two or three sanctions have already been pronounced this year, and this can go as far as exclusion from the party and the prohibition of any nomination for five years.

At LFI, women who listen

A cell of the same kind now exists in almost all left-wing parties, notably in La France insoumise. It is this “monitoring committee” for gender-based and sexual violence which received a report targeting Taha Bouhafs and which prides itself on having investigated the file in five days. Finally, the candidate himself gave up running for the legislative elections.

But the media coverage of this case was good, according to Sarah Legrain: “We have noticed that there have been a little more reports coming in in recent days because there is greater publicity around our device. There are five or six of them who are there, in procedure”. Sarah Legrain coordinates the listening group made up entirely of women. It is a particularity. They are seven. Trained in the exercise, they are responsible for drawing up a report which is then sent to another committee which can decide on sanctions.

At the PS, towards the end of the case by case

This system inspires the Socialist Party, which is in the process of creating a permanent commission, the “commission for the fight against harassment and discrimination”. Until now, reports were handled on a case-by-case basis.

Left-wing parties and some trade unions are now discussing good practices. They even give the alert when an activist spotted as violent passes from one structure to another. The parties insist: the decisions they take are political and concern their functioning. They are not judges but very often offer to accompany women who want to continue their legal proceedings.

At LREM, an anonymous dialog box

An alert unit also exists among the Walkers. Created two years ago, it is open to employees and members to denounce any type of inappropriate behavior. It was entered 77 times via an anonymous dialogue box managed by an external service provider, which refers to a party contact. There too, there may be support and sanctions taken.

It should be noted that in the legislative elections, several LREM candidates were the subject of accusations. Jérôme Peyrat, was invested in Gironde despite his conviction for violence against his ex-companion. He eventually withdrew. On the other hand Yves Blein, outgoing deputy of the Rhône, maintained himself. He is the subject of a preliminary investigation for sexual harassment and denies this accusation.

At LR, management by the hierarchy

Further to the right, we feel that it is still stammering. Procedures exist but they are less extensive, less collective. You have to go to the party hierarchy. At Les Républicains, it is the number 3 of the party, Aurelien Pradié who takes care of the delicate question. He received three reports in two and a half years. When it is pointed out to him that this is little and that the procedures should perhaps be reviewed, he objects: “Yes, maybe. But when it’s collective, I’m not sure it works much better.”

At RN or at Reconquête!, no business

At the National Rally, the same tone as at Les Républicains. “There is a cell, it’s called the Conflicts Committee. And incidentally, if they are elected, there is another cell called the Executive Office and which is responsible for analyzing this type of problem. But we haven’t had any so far.” assures Marine Le Pen. Zero recorded cases of sexual violence therefore within the National Rally.

No case either at Reconquête!. Eric Zemmour’s movement did not provide for any procedure. The former presidential candidate is himself accused by eight women. To justify itself, the movement replies that the party is still in the process of being structured.

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