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Campaigners march through Paris to urge more funding to tackle domestic violence

The problem has been described as ‘France’s shame’ by President Emmanuel Macron.

People march against domestic violence, in Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)
People march against domestic violence, in Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)

By Angela Charlton and Thibault Camus, Associated Press

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched through Paris to demand more government investment to prevent deadly domestic violence against women.

A wave of purple flags and signs snaked from the Place de l’Opera through eastern Paris amid an unprecedented public campaign to decry violence against women – and to honour the 130 women that activists say have been killed in France this year by a current or former partner.

The problem has been described as “France’s shame” by President Emmanuel Macron.

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Activists held a march through Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)

While France has a progressive reputation and pushes for women’s rights around the world, it has among the highest rates in Europe of domestic violence, in part because of poor police response to reports of abuse. Many of the women killed this year had previously sought help from police.

At the march – one of the biggest demonstrations this year in Paris – French film and TV stars joined abuse victims and activists calling for an end to “femicide”. Many held banners reading “Sick of Rape”.

The protest came on the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and is aimed at pressuring the French government before it unveils new measures to tackle the problem.

The measures are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence and prioritising police training so they will not brush off women’s complaints as a private affair.

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Women hold placards with the names of the women killed by their husband since the beginning of the year (AP/Thibault Camus)

Alyssa Ahrabare, spokeswoman for activist group Try Feminism, said: “We live in a culture that finds excuses for assailants.”

She called for better training for people in police stations and hospitals who come into contact with victims of domestic violence, and more shelters for abused women.

Some marchers want 1 billion euro in government investment, though the funding is expected to fall far short of that.

French activists have stepped up efforts this year to call attention to the problem, with an unusual campaign of gluing posters around Paris and other cities every time another woman is killed.

The posters honour the women, and call for action. They also hold protests, lying down on the pavement to represent the dead women.

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The campaigners want the French government to take bold steps to prevent deadly domestic violence (AP/Thibault Camus)

A 2014 EU survey of 42,000 women across all 28 member states found that 26% of French respondents said they been abused by a partner since the age of 15, either physically or sexually.

That is below the global average of 30%, according to UN Women. But it is above the EU average and the sixth highest among EU countries.

Half that number reported experiencing such abuse in Spain, which implemented a series of legal and educational measures in 2004 that slashed its domestic violence rates.

Conversations about domestic violence have also ratcheted up in neighbouring Germany, where activists are demanding that the term “femicide” be used to describe such killings.

PA

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