PARIS — Rape accusations towards a newly appointed minister disrupted the beginning of President Emmanuel Macron’s second time period on Monday, with the allegations coming amid a rising reckoning over sexism and sexual abuse by French political figures.
Two ladies have accused Damien Abad, the minister for solidarity and for disabled individuals, of raping them in 2010 and 2011, in accordance with Mediapart, a French investigative information outlet that revealed a lengthy article about the accusations final week, with out naming both accuser.
Mr. Abad, 42, has denied the allegations. The Instances has not been capable of independently confirm the Mediapart report.
“I’ve by no means raped a lady in my life,” Mr. Abad advised reporters on Monday from the Ain Division of France, the place he’s working for re-election in parliamentary elections in June. “Ought to an harmless man resign? I don’t assume so.”
Mr. Abad, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital situation that limits his potential to maneuver his joints, mentioned in a statement that the acts he was accused of had been implausible as a result of he didn’t have the bodily potential to carry out them and that he couldn’t have intercourse with no companion’s “full and full consent.”
In response to Mediapart, one of many ladies mentioned that after a consensual encounter, he refused to cease when requested, whereas the opposite mentioned she blacked out after having drinks with him and awoke in a lodge room, her physique sore.
The federal government mentioned it had not been conscious of the allegations earlier than the Mediapart article, though an advocacy group mentioned it had flagged one of many ladies’s experiences to the 2 political events concerned. Each political events advised Mediapart that that they had not seen the emailed letter.
The accusations overshadowed the primary assembly of France’s freshly appointed cabinet, elevating questions over whether or not it had ignored warnings about Mr. Abad and drawing consideration away from its efforts to deal with hovering inflation simply weeks earlier than elections that can decide management of Parliament.
The accusations additionally fueled longstanding recriminations towards Mr. Macron from feminist teams, who accuse him of not dwelling as much as his vow to make crimes towards ladies one of his top priorities. French feminists have been particularly angered that he has stored ministers accused of sexist habits or sexual violence in his authorities.
Sexism and sexual violence has grow to be a rising concern in French politics. The High Council for Gender Equality, an official watchdog, famous in an annual report that sexist feedback by male politicians had been nonetheless commonplace and that political events had barely began organising channels enabling victims to report accusations.
“The political world nonetheless hasn’t skilled an actual #MeToo,” the council wrote.
A number of candidates within the parliamentary elections have dropped out over previous habits or complaints — together with a far-left politician and one from Mr. Macron’s La République en Marche celebration, who was defended by a top official as an “honest man” regardless of a home violence conviction.
Olivia Grégoire, the federal government’s new spokeswoman, confronted a barrage of questions over Mr. Abad at her first post-cabinet information convention.
She mentioned that Élisabeth Borne, Mr. Macron’s new prime minister, had mentioned the accusations with Mr. Abad over the weekend, that the federal government had a “zero-tolerance” coverage for sexual criminals, and that violence towards ladies was “on the coronary heart of its priorities.”
“The federal government will tirelessly proceed to encourage the liberation of ladies’s speech and to encourage ladies who’ve been subjected to violence to come back ahead,” Ms. Grégoire mentioned.
However she added that Mr. Abad had by no means been convicted and had no authorized instances pending towards him.
“On this affair, as is commonly the case for these affairs, what’s at stake is establishing the reality,” she mentioned. “And establishing the reality is as much as the authorized system.”
Two of Mr. Macron’s prime ministers — Gérald Darmanin and Éric Dupond-Moretti — had already drawn the ire of feminist groups when they were nominated in 2020. Each had been reappointed final week.
Mr. Dupond-Moretti, the justice minister, has been accused of constructing insensitive, sexist remarks, whereas Mr. Darmanin, the inside minister, has confronted rape accusations, though in January prosecutors recommended dropping an investigation into him.
The accusations towards Mr. Abad date to 2010 and 2011, a time when he was a newly elected right-wing member of the European Parliament.
Mediapart didn’t give both girl’s actual title. One, a 35-year-old who was a political activist, advised the information outlet that she had met Mr. Abad in 2009 at a gathering and that he began frequently speaking along with her a number of months later, insistently sending her textual content messages, a few of them crude.
She mentioned she had rebuffed his advances however lastly met with him in January 2011. They’d intercourse that was consensual at first however, she mentioned, that he refused to cease when requested.
The lady advised Mediapart that she spoke to the police a primary time in 2012, however the case was dropped after she hesitated to press fees. She then filed an official criticism in 2017, however the investigation was dropped lower than a yr later, in accordance with Mediapart.
The second girl, 41, advised Mediapart that she had met Mr. Abad at a marriage in northern France and stayed in contact with him for skilled causes. In 2010, he invited her for dinner and drinks in Paris. She advised Mediapart that Mr. Abad had supplied her a glass of champagne and that she had blacked out after ingesting it.
She later awoke in a close-by lodge room, “in a state of shock and deep disgust,” feeling groggy, her physique aching, in accordance with Mediapart. She shortly left, and advised individuals near her about her expertise however didn’t file a criticism.
However when she noticed information studies a number of weeks in the past that Mr. Abad was anticipated to enter Mr. Macron’s new authorities, she determined to write down about her expertise in a letter to the Observatory of Sexual and Sexist Violence in Politics, an advocacy group created in February after practically 300 ladies working in politics called for political parties and institutions to reckon with sexual violence in their midst.
The lady’s Could 13 letter was forwarded to La République en Marche, and Les Républicains, the conservative celebration Mr. Abad used to belong to — he was the top of Républicain lawmakers within the decrease home of Parliament till Mr. Macron poached him for his cupboard.
Mr. Abad has acknowledged a consensual relationship with the lady who filed the 2017 criticism however has denied all the opposite accusations. Prime politicians and officers have mentioned they didn’t know in regards to the allegations till Mediapart reported them Saturday.
However studies since have suggested that it was an open secret among some members of Les Républicains that Mr. Abad had a fame for behaving inappropriately with ladies round him.
Aurélien Pradié, the secretary common of Les Républicains, told Mediapart that Mr. Abad “all the time had an odd angle with ladies” and that a number of celebration officers had identified in regards to the 2017 criticism however not executed something.
Fiona Texeire, a co-founder of the Observatory of Sexual and Sexist Violence in Politics, mentioned that some ladies depart politics “as a result of it isn’t an surroundings the place you’ll be able to work in excellent security.”
“It’s an surroundings that continues to be extraordinarily masculine in its practices and in its functioning,” she mentioned, including that it was generally arduous for ladies in politics to push again towards abuses of energy as a result of they could fear about tarnishing causes or events. Additionally they face the identical struggles as different ladies with the authorized system — roughly 9 out of 10 ladies who expertise rape by no means file a swimsuit, according to official French statistics.
That made it all of the extra necessary for the federal government to be exemplary, she mentioned.
“If we wish issues to vary in French society on questions of sexual violence, the very best instance has to come back from up prime,” she mentioned.