Women angered by IMF coverage

PARIS: French women’s groups outraged by the political and media reaction to the sexual assault allegations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn were due to protest in central Paris yesterday evening.

A week after New York police arrested the French political heavyweight, feminist groups are circulating a petition against the impunity that they say sexism enjoys in France.

Their campaign has already won the support of several prominent female politicians and journalists.

Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, has been formally charged in New York with the sexual assault and attempted rape of a maid in the luxury Times Square Sofitel hotel where he was staying.

He denies the charges and has quit his job at the head of the International Monetary Fund to concentrate on fighting his case.

A furore has broken out over the $US250,000 ($234,000) severance pay he will receive after his resignation. However, the IMF said that his life pension benefits will be considerably less than if he had completed his full term.

The petition, circulated by an alliance of feminist groups, does not enter the debate over Mr Strauss-Kahn’s guilt or innocence. But it hits out at the political reaction to – and media coverage of – the affair in France.

”For a week, we have been stunned by the daily surge of misogynistic remarks by public figures, widely broadcast on our televisions, radios, in the workplace and on social networks,” it says. ”We are angry, disgusted and outraged.

”We don’t know what happened in New York last Saturday but we know what has been happening in France for the last week.

”We call on all those fighting the sexist onslaught we have witnessed this last week to rally”, in the square in front of the Centre Pompidou in central Paris at 5pm.

Mr Strauss-Kahn had been the Socialist front-runner to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential election, but the scandal has in effect destroyed his political career.

In a French poll on Wednesday, 57 per cent of respondents said they thought he was ”the victim of a plot”. here have been at least as many people defending him in the French media as those standing up for the alleged victim.

Campaigners have objected to what they say have been remarks playing down the seriousness of rape, and the ”intolerable confusion between sexual freedom and violence against women” in the French media’s coverage of the affair.

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