MeToo, for Israeli victims too: Gaza war drives wedge between French feminists

French feminist groups have come under fire for purportedly turning a blind eye to the sexual violence unleashed on Israeli women during the October 7 attacks by Hamas, echoing the anger levelled at rights organisations elsewhere. The accusation is indicative of the competing narratives and loyalties elicited by the devastating conflict. It also reflects a failure to rapidly investigate and establish the specific, gender-based nature of some of the atrocities committed. 

Efforts to place the focus on the violence inflicted on Israeli women and girls triggered an incident in Paris last week at the annual November 25 march to condemn violence against women, which organisers said brought some 80,000 demonstrators to the streets of the French capital. 

A group of around 200 protesters, some carrying Israeli flags, claimed they were confronted by pro-Palestinian activists and effectively barred from joining the march. The protesters wore clothes stained with fake blood, a reference to the searing images of bloodied female victims of the October 7 massacres, filmed and posted online by the perpetrators of the attacks, in which an estimated 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians.  

The protesters had planned to “carry the voice of the Israeli victims of Hamas and denounce the deafening silence of feminist groups”, French daily Libération cited the activists as saying. They brandished placards reading “MeToo, unless you are a Jew” and “Feminists, your silence makes you complicit”. 

Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris on November 25 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. © Geoffroy Van der Hasselt, AFP

Reports of the incident spread widely on social media, feeding into wider condemnation of an alleged bias among advocates of women’s rights. “The ‘Nous Toutes’ (We All – France’s equivalent of MeToo) that has been proclaimed for years is a becoming a ‘Nous Toutes unless you’re Jewish,” wrote prominent journalist Rebecca Amsellem in an Instagram post, a day after the Paris march. Writing on X, author Sophie Gourion lamented the “double standards” she claimed many fellow feminists were guilty of.  

Government ministers and senior politicians also stepped into the fray. “One doesn’t choose which violence (to condemn) based on nationality or the type conflict,” said Gender Equality Minister Bérangère Couillard, warning that state subsidies for advocacy groups were conditional on the respect of “such universal values”. Senator Laurence Rossignol, a former minister for women’s rights, spoke of a “split among feminists, unlike any seen before”. 

Organisers of the Paris march hit back in a joint statement on Tuesday, stressing their “unambiguous condemnation of the sexual and sexist crimes, rapes and femicides committed by Hamas” on October 7. They also blasted an attempt to “instrumentalise” the fight against gender-based violence and accused far-right activists of stoking tensions at the march and seeking to discredit its organisers.  

Sexual violence overlooked 

The criticism voiced in France echoes complaints targeting rights groups and international organisations in other Western countries and in Israel. United Nations agencies such as UN Women have faced particular scrutiny over their alleged failure to condemn the specific violence inflicted on women on October 7. 

Ahead of the UN’s international day for the elimination of violence against women, Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog published an opinion piece in Newsweek expressing outrage and betrayal over the international community’s failure to condemn the gender-based sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas. 

“A Hamas video from a kibbutz shows terrorists torturing a pregnant woman and removing her foetus. Our forensic scientists have found bodies of women and girls raped with such violence that their pelvic bones were broken,” wrote Herzog. 

On Wednesday, a UN commission of inquiry investigating war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict said it would focus on gathering evidence of sexual violence in the October 7 attacks. Navi Pillay, the commission’s chair, told reporters she would pass the evidence onto the International Criminal Court and call for it to consider prosecutions, amid criticism from Israel and families of Israeli hostages that the UN had kept quiet. 

Critics contend that the gruesome footage taken and posted on social media by Hamas militants, as well as CCTV images and the accounts of first responders, provide ample evidence of the horrific crimes committed by the Islamist group and other factions that took part in the massacres in Israeli communities and at the Supernova rave that was taking place close to the Gaza Strip. 

Many war crimes experts, however, stress that the harrowing images must first be corroborated by material and other evidence – a painstakingly slow task further hindered by the unprecedented nature of an attack that caught Israel completely off guard.

Céline Bardet, a war crimes expert and funder of the NGO We Are not Weapons of War, said the acrimony and mistrust surrounding the subject highlighted the need for an independent and thorough investigation into the crimes committed on October 7. The criticism levelled at feminist groups and UN bodies “is a little unfair”, she added, noting that the authorities had been slow to establish the specific gender-based nature of some of the most horrific violence.

“We know that, due in part to the ongoing fighting, the investigation of sexual violence was not made a priority in the days and weeks following the attack. That means a lot of the work still needs to be done, but it’s much more difficult now,” she told FRANCE 24, warning that much of the evidence is likely to have been compromised.  

“Israeli police have never faced such a challenge before,” she added. “We are ready to help them if they seek our expertise.”  

Women’s rights groups in Israel have warned of significant failings in preserving forensic evidence that could have shone a light on the scale of sexual violence committed against women and girls in last month’s Hamas attacks. 

Tal Hochman, a government relations officer at the Israel Women’s Network, told the Guardian: “Most of the women who were raped were then killed, and we will never understand the full picture, because either bodies were burned too badly or the victims were buried and the forensic evidence buried too. No samples were taken.” 

While grisly footage of the carnage soon spread on social media in the wake of the attacks, detailed reports of sexual violence were much slower to emerge.  

On October 24, Israel published a first video of a soldier citing evidence that women had been raped, followed by more such accounts over subsequent days. On November 8, local media reported the first testimony of a survivor who described the gang-rape, murder and mutilation of a woman at the Supernova rave. A week later, on November 14, police announced they had opened an investigation into “multiple cases” of sexual violence committed on October 7, citing video evidence, DNA samples and witness accounts. 

Israeli authorities have been playing catch-up, Haaretz’s Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote the next day, highlighting the role of civil society groups in pushing for the investigation and recognition of the gender-based violence that had been overlooked not just by international organisations – but the Israeli government too. 

“Whether it was an effort to protect the (…) victims and their families, an inability to handle the ugly details or simply one of the many systemic failures of Israel’s leaders in the initial days after the October 7 attack, the full extent of the sexual atrocities committed were not detailed or documented enough to make national or international headlines,” she wrote. “And so an opportunity was lost: the chance to gain a greater degree of recognition and sympathy from international rights organisations as to the depth of the brutality and viciousness of the Hamas attack.” 

‘Pitting one side’s sorrows against the other’s’ 

In recent weeks, the Israeli government has stepped up its efforts to obtain greater recognition and support for the victims of sexual violence. 

On November 5, the Israeli state issued an appeal on its official X account “calling all feminists” to “support all of the Israeli women who were raped, tortured, murdered and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists” – and drawing a parallel with the international support for Iran’s Mahsa Amini. The following week, Israel’s foreign ministry launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #BelieveIsraeliWomen. 

Speaking on FRANCE 24, French writer Sarah Barukh said many feminist groups had failed to “abide by their core principle: to tell Israeli women, ‘we believe you’.” 

Claims of a lack of evidence smacked of “hypocrisy”, she argued, adding: “It’s somewhat strange to argue that more proof is needed, when it was all filmed live and published on the Internet by Hamas.” 

Barukh said the silence on the subject betrayed a bias on the subject. She described the habit of “systematically comparing the suffering of Israelis with that of the Palestinians” as a way to “minimise” the former.  

Weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip and the forced displacement of its population have shifted much of the media focus on to the plight of women and girls trapped in the enclave and the spiralling civilian death. Health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory say women and children account for two thirds of the more than 15,000 people killed.

Journalist Olivia Cattan, the founder of the advocacy group “Paroles de Femmes” (Women’s Voices), argued that many feminist campaigners’ views on the decades-long conflict roiling the Middle East had clouded their judgement and blinded them to the atrocities committed against Israeli women. 

She wrote in a blog post on the Mediapart news site: “I am not asking for your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; I am simply asking that you pass judgement on this massacre of women and children. Full stop.” 

Such remarks mirror the divisions that have also roiled left-wing movements in France and abroad, with critics arguing that sympathy for the Palestinians – widely identified as the oppressed party in the conflict – has at times prevented forceful condemnations of the October 7 attacks. 

In a column on MSNBC, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, a historian of gender at The New School in New York City, suggested the “minimisation” of violence against Israeli women was “the result of an ideological turn among some feminists and progressives that elevates an ‘antiracist’ agenda above the core feminist commitment to defend the universal right to bodily autonomy for all women”. 

She added: “This argument contends that because Israel is a colonial power oppressing the Palestinians, any resistance is a justified dimension of decolonisation.” 

Others have voiced the opposite argument, bemoaning a lack of empathy for Palestinian women driven from their homes, scrambling for shelter from the bombs, giving birth with no anaesthetics, no painkillers, no electricity. 

Read moreMalnourished, sick and scared: Pregnant women in Gaza face ‘unthinkable challenges’

In an op-ed published by Mediapart on the eve of the eve of the November 25 march, Nobel literature laureate Annie Ernaux joined several activists and academics in condemning the “dehumanising and gender-based violence” perpetrated on October 7 – while also denouncing “the double standards applied to an occupied people – the Palestinian people – and an occupying state, a double standard that also applies to feminism: as if the lives and sufferings of Palestinian women had no value, no density, no complexity”. 

Hanna Assouline, of the women’s group Guerrières de la Paix (Warriors for Peace), bemoaned a widespread tendency to take sides in the conflict and amplify divisions, instead of calling for unity and peace. 

“We’re witnessing a sad spectacle of selective empathy and pitting one side’s sorrows and deaths against the other’s,” said Assouline, whose advocacy group has helped organise silent gatherings for peace, with neither flags nor slogans.  

“It’s as if we were incapable of displaying a united front of humanity facing all this horror,” she told FRANCE 24. “The only way forward is to step out of our respective solitudes and mourn together, mobilise together, and voice our common indignation.”

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Transforming HIV prevention in Europe

This article is part of POLITICO Telescope: The New AIDS Epidemic, an ongoing exploration of the disease today.

The world’s battle to end the HIV epidemic is being fought on two fronts. The first involves getting as many people as possible who are living with the virus diagnosed and rapidly onto antiretroviral medication. This reduces the virus inside their bodies to such a low level that it is undetectable and therefore cannot be passed to others. The approach is known as “undetectable = untransmittable” or “U=U*.”

The second front is focused on protecting people from contracting the virus in the first place, even if they have been exposed to it — an approach known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Taken as prescribed, PrEP makes a person’s body almost entirely resistant to HIV infection.

There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

PrEP comprises antiretroviral drugs that can be taken intermittently, around the time someone expects to be sexually active. They protect against the virus in two ways: by increasing the production of antibodies in the cells in the rectal or vaginal lining, making them less receptive to HIV in the first place, and by interfering with the ability of HIV to replicate in the body.

Nearly 5 million people around the world have taken PrEP at least once — including about 2.8 million in Europe — and it has been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV infection during sex by 99 percent. In the European Union, new HIV infections have fallen by about 45 percent since PrEP was licensed in 2016, although this decline is also partly due to U=U.

PrEP as part of combination prevention strategies

Missing doses or running out of PrEP can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. I via Shutterstock

Today, PrEP comes primarily in the form of an oral tablet, which has the advantage of being cheap to produce and easy to store. But it is not a universal solution. Because it needs to be taken regularly while someone is sexually active, missing doses or running out can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. What’s more, in the same way that some bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, the HIV that does enter the bodies of people who have paused or discontinued their use of PrEP has a greater chance of being resistant to subsequent antiretroviral medications they may then need.

PrEP taken in tablet form is also an issue for people who need to keep their use of PrEP private, perhaps from family members or partners. Having to take a pill once a day or two or three times a week is something that may be hard to hide from others. And some people, such as migrants, who may not be fully integrated with a country’s health care system, may find it hard to access regular supplies of daily medication. Limitations such as these have prompted the development of alternative, innovative ways for people to protect themselves that are more tailored to their needs and life situations. These include longer-acting drugs that can be injected.

Like existing oral medications, injectable PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating in a person’s body, but its effect lasts much longer. In September, the EU approved the use of the first intramuscular injectable that can be given every two months. Gilead is, until 2027, running trials of another injectable option, which, once the required efficacy and safety have been demonstrated, could be administered subcutaneously just once every six months. This would be more convenient for many people and more adapted to the circumstances of certain populations, such as migrants, and may therefore lead to better adherence and health outcomes.

HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV Clinical Development at Gilead Sciences

Further ahead — but still in the early stages of development and testing — are patches and implants, which would provide a continuous supply of antiretroviral drugs, and immunotherapies. Immunotherapies would comprise a broad spectrum of naturally produced or manufactured antibodies against HIV, which, in theory, would pre-arm their bodies to resist infection.

As more types of PrEP become available, we will see a greater awareness of its benefits, as more people are able to find the version of PrEP that best suits their living conditions and personal requirements. This is a fundamental principle of “combination prevention,” or innovative interventions that reflect the specific needs of the people they are trying to reach.

Preparing for the future

Despite clear scientific evidence of the benefits of PrEP, there are still some hurdles we need to overcome to make it a powerful tool to end HIV altogether. These include investments and funding in prevention and availability, and programs to combat stigma.

Although the EU licensed PrEP in 2016, availability varies across the bloc. In France, the U.K., Spain, Germany and, more recently, Italy, oral PrEP is available at no cost to those who would benefit from it. In Romania, although PrEP is included in the country’s new HIV National Strategy, it is not yet funded, and it is only available via non-governmental organizations that rely on external funding sources. And in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, PrEP is not state funded and there are no current plans to make it so. In many member states, even though PrEP is technically licensed, in practice it can be hard to get hold of, in particular for specific communities, such as women, migrants or trans people. Potential users may find it hard, for example, to access testing or even doctors who are willing to prescribe it.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

Another key challenge that health systems and providers face is communicating the importance of PrEP to those who would most benefit, and thereby increase uptake. Many respondents in multiple studies have indicated that they don’t feel HIV is something that affects them, or they have indicated that there is a general stigma in their communities associated with sexual health matters. And some groups that are already discriminated against, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, and migrants, may be hesitant to engage with health care systems for fear of reprisals. Again, injectable PrEP could help reach such key populations as it will offer a more discreet way of accessing the preventive treatment.

“There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe,” says Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences. “At Gilead, we are excited to engage with communities and broader stakeholders to inform our trials efforts and partner with them in our goal to develop person-centered innovations that can help end the HIV epidemic in Europe.”

Europe is leading the world’s efforts toward ending HIV, but, even in the bloc, PrEP usage and availability varies from country to country and demographic to demographic. If the region is to become the first to end the HIV epidemic entirely, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of member states will need to lead the way in fighting stigma, promoting and prioritizing HIV prevention in all its aspects including innovation in therapeutics strengthening the financing and funding of healthcare systems, and establishing effective pathways to zero transmission to end HIV entirely.

“HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV,” says Baeten. “HIV prevention is critical and has the potential to change the trajectory of the epidemic, but stigma and other barriers limit the impact that PrEP medications can have on reducing HIV infections in Europe. We all have a responsibility to collaboratively partner to make this work.”

*U=U is true on two premises: taking HIV medicines as prescribed and getting to and staying undetectable for at least six months prevents transmitting HIV to partners through sex. Undetectable means that the virus cannot be measured by a viral load test (viral load <200 copies/mL)

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Europe confronts an increasingly transnational far-right threat

Movements that could once be tackled one government at a time are more and more able to connect with each other across borders – and Elon Musk’s Twitter has given them a gift.


Since the outbreak of the current war in Israel and Palestine, numerous European governments have warned of an uptick in two violent threats: Islamist extremism and antisemitism. Authorities in Germany, for instance, say that the threat of a jihadist attack is “higher than it has been for a long time”.

But in terms of what’s playing out on European streets and online, the threat of an organised, sometimes violent and increasingly transnational far right is becoming impossible to ignore.

Britain last month saw far-right counterprotesters attempt to disrupt a peaceful pro-Palestinian march in central London. Recent protests in Spain against an amnesty extended to Catalonian independence leaders attracted far-right elements.

And in France, the recent stabbing of a young boy in a southeastern village sparked days of protest, many of which featured out-and-out far right groups, including some from the notoriously extreme “Identitarian” movement.

The presence of extremists at the marches has been alarming enough that French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is seeking to ban three specific far-right groups, some of whose members are on a government extremism watchlist.

Announcing the crackdown, he cited the example of Ireland, where a mob recently ran riot in the centre of Dublin after several children were stabbed outside a school in broad daylight. Warning that “there is a mobilisation on the ultra-right that wants to tip us into civil war,” he praised the authorities for helping avoid “an Irish-style scenario”.

That scenario extends beyond the violence in Dublin itself and includes a wider, long-brewing movement with international reach.

While some commentators attributed the violence in Ireland to anger among working-class people suffering in a housing crisis while immigrants and asylum seekers are provided with accommodation and welfare benefits, others dismissed that argument as an excuse for something far more sinister.

Close observers of the Irish far right insist that the roots of the violence run deep, warning that openly racist and fascist groups are galvanising their supporters using increasingly violent rhetoric directed squarely at asylum seekers and immigrants of all kinds, especially those who are not white.

The incident followed a pattern that has played out in many European countries, as ostensibly grassroots far-right movements latch onto assorted issues – transgender rights, immigration, the place of Muslims in society, or Covid control measures and vaccination – and put pressure on democratic political systems with increasingly angry rhetoric and organised, sometimes violent protests.

While they often rail against their national governments’ policies, these movements have an increasingly transnational character. And across Europe and beyond, these factions now have a newly hospitable environment in which to communicate: the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Planet Musk

Since he took over the platform last year, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has become increasingly erratic and politically extreme, routinely engaging positively with racist and antisemitic users. According to Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, the renaissance of Twitter/X as a haven for the far right is a major development.

“Every form of far-right extremist is using the platform now in ways that they only could before on unregulated sites like Telegram,” she told Euronews. 

“Musk has allowed prominent neo-Nazis and other white supremacists back on the platform, including very extreme people like Andrew Anglin of Daily Stormer, and they are pushing their ideas out there. The site is also monetising extremist material.

“This is true internationally as well. Our recent report on Generation Identity accounts on Twitter, which were pulled and then reinstated, shows the transnational reach of the problem.

“Twitter is an essential part of the far-right online ecosystem now, for raising money, recruiting and propagandising. It may well be the largest hate site on the internet at this point.”

The events on the streets of Dublin, which saw a tram and a bus attacked and many businesses looted, were heavily amplified online by local influencers with large followings on Twitter/X and international figures in the far-right ecosystem in the US and the UK.

But also getting involved was Musk himself, who engaged with extreme users trying to call attention tweeted that Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “Hates Irish people” and complained that “The current Irish government clearly cares more about praise from woke media than their own people”.


Into the mainstream

While its value has plummeted and advertisers are leaving, taking crucial revenue with them, the platform’s moderation policies have a huge impact on European countries. 

Unlike Telegram or other encrypted messaging apps, Twitter/X’s open nature means images, footage, false and misleading claims and hate speech can far more easily leach into public conversation – including via pickup from populist politicians and parties trying to appeal to receptive audiences.

And while none of Ireland’s very small far-right political parties have any hope of entering government any time soon, other countries have already seen their established ones embrace and fuel the anger on the far right, bringing outlandish and extreme ideas into the centre of electoral politics.

As for the future, Beirich warns that there are frightening scenarios in the offing – and that in many European countries, things are already well advanced down a dark path.

“What was fringe not too long ago has now breached the cordon sanitaire, especially when talking about immigration and Muslims,” she told Euronews. “We’ve just seen this in the Netherlands as well. The biggest tragedy would be if the AfD makes huge gains in the upcoming German elections.


“At this point, there is little to distinguish say [French extremist politician Éric] Zemmour’s politics from the white supremacists in the Identitarian movement and many elements in Marine Le Pen’s party. I would argue the Finns Party, who are in coalition in Helsinki, are extremists that are already in power, meaning they have breached the mainstream. And Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary is much the same.

“Unfortunately, the failure to take action against the far right online and off has now left us with extremism in the mainstream.”

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Body found in rural England barn triggers Europe-wide investigation

Does this story seem familiar? Do you recognise the person in these images? Investigators are asking for help.


Six years ago to the day, police officers in rural England found something disturbing.

While searching a derelict and overgrown barn in Hampshire in the course of a separate investigation, they stumbled upon a body.

What remained was “essentially a skeleton”, serious crime officer Douglas Utting told Euronews, estimating the person had been dead for several years.

The body belonged to a Caucasian man in his 50s, between 177cm to 180cm tall, with brown hair.

Alongside tobacco and cigarette papers, his remains were surrounded by clothing, including a beanie and glasses, a crime thriller novel and objects that suggested he was “living rough or on some sort of journey,” detailed Utting. 

Other than that there were no clues.

Officers did not find a passport, driving licence or any other identifying item at the abandoned dairy farm in Micheldever in southern England, where his body was discovered. 

There were no other signs, such as a tattoo or jewellery, that could “shorten the list as to who this person could be,” said Utting.

Even the cause of death was a mystery.

Again there was “no obvious trauma, no weapons, no clear signs of suicide, as is often the case in these sorts of cases,” explained the serious crime officer, though investigators believe the man likely died of natural causes.

Hampshire Police then turned to science, taking DNA samples from his toothbrush and teeth.

But still they drew a blank. They could not match his DNA to anyone on the UK’s criminal database or missing persons unit.

At the end of their trail, they resorted to a media appeal, asking anthropologist Dr Chris Rynn to make a facial reconstruction from his skull, which was shared with national newspapers in 2019.

And that’s when the story took an unexpected turn.

Witnesses came forward from Itchen Stoke, a nearby village, and told Hampshire Police the man had knocked on their door in 2012 and asked if he could pitch a tent in their field because he was lost. They accepted.

He was “fairly dishevelled” and spoke “good English, but with a strong French accent,” the witnesses reported to officers.

That night they shared a meal and chatted with him, though since so much time had passed their memory of what he told them was patchy.

Unable to remember his name, they recalled him saying he was from France and had served in the army as a conscript, suffering an injury that left him partially deaf.


One witness himself was ex-army and said the man had a “military bearing about him”, particularly in the way he organised his possessions.

He also told the witnesses he had worked for the renowned French actress Catherine Deneuve, though her agency could not verify this when asked by Hampshire Police.

Why exactly he was in southern England remains unclear. 

Claiming to have arrived recently, the man told witnesses he was travelling through the country to get to Ireland to meet his girlfriend.

However, Utting said “all options are open”.


Witnesses claimed he could have been suffering some “mental illness”, though the serious crimes officer said that was “just an opinion”.

“Was he on the run? He could have been, of course, if he was a criminal and had gotten his way onto someone’s DNA database, we’d have probably known about it by now… But who knows? That’s part of the mystery of this story,” he added.

The next morning the man bid the couple farewell – reluctantly accepting their offer of food and money – and walked off down the country lane “never to be seen again”, said Utting.

With these new leads, Hampshire police turned to science once more to glean extra details about the case. They worked with researchers led by Dr Stuart Black at the University of Reading, who used isotope analysis of his teeth to figure out exactly where the man was from.

Likening it to a “fingerprint”, Dr Black explained to Euronews that as tooth enamel forms during childhood chemicals from the food and water we consume are imprinted in it, indicating where a person was raised. 


Dr Black’s analysis revealed the man likely spent the first 12 years of life in a “large town or city” somewhere across “quite a large area of southeast France and Corsica to the very western edge of Switzerland.” His early diet was also rich in fish.

‘It is quite sad to think that someone died… alone in a dirty, cold barn’

Hampshire police shared this information with the French authorities and Locate, a volunteer organisation that picks up unsolved missing person cases, but their investigation has since hit a dead end. 

They are now asking for the public’s help.

“The purpose of our appeal is to get a message to the people of France, western Switzerland and Corsica…  [and] ask the question: Does this [story] mean anything to anyone? Does this [image] remind you of someone you haven’t seen since 2012?,” said Utting from Hampshire Police.

He urged the public to come forward with information in what he said was the police’s last-ditch attempt.


“There’s not much more we can do. Asking people in France and Switzerland if they can help really is our last chance to try and put a name to this man and get some closure to a family that might be missing him… someone somewhere must surely have [information].”

“It is quite sad to think that someone died in these circumstances alone, in a dirty cold [barn] in winter probably, and wasn’t found for five years and then not laid to rest,” Utting added. 

Outside the UK, anyone who believes they have information relating to the case can contact Locate International anonymously by emailing [email protected]

Inside the UK, call 101 and ask to be put through to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary, and quote the reference number 44170467777.

Alternatively, people can submit information via their website:


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Historian debunks claims that Coco Chanel served in the French Resistance

New documents surfaced in September indicating that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel may have played a double role during World War II, serving not only as an informant for the Nazis but also as a member of the French Resistance. But a historian who has analysed the new evidence says he has “serious doubts” about her alleged membership in La Résistance, suggesting the French fashion icon may have used the documents to restore her reputation after the war.

The previously unseen documents were revealed to the public in mid-September at the opening of a London exhibition tracing the life and legacy of the French couturier. Alongside more than 50 of Chanel’s iconic tweed suits and a whole room dedicated to Chanel No. 5 perfume, a part of the “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” retrospective also dealt with the designer’s wartime past.

Chanel’s links to the Nazis have long been established by declassified documents. She spent the war living at the Ritz after falling in love with German intelligence officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage. In July 1941, at the height of World War II, the Nazis registered her as a “trusted source” and gave her the code name “Westminster” due to her close connections with the British government and especially Winston Churchill. In 1943, Chanel was, among other things, tasked with the secret mission of trying to persuade Churchill to negotiate with the Germans.   

But the exhibition included two new documents claiming she was also part of the French Resistance. The first is a certificate allegedly showing her membership in the Resistance between January 1, 1943 and April 17, 1944 in which Chanel is described as an “occasional agent”. The other shows her affiliation with the “Eric” underground resistance network and lists her code name as “Coco”.

A 1957 certificate purportedly attesting Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s membership in the French Resistance movement. © Guillaume Pollack / Private / Archive reference number: SHD/GR 16 P 118851

“We have verification from the French government, including a document from 1957, which confirms her active participation in the resistance,” exhibit curator Oriole Cullen told The Guardian at the time.

Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on September 16.

It was not stated how the curators had found the documents.

Thin file

The new findings intrigued French historian Guillaume Pollack, a specialist on the French Resistance, who last year published a book on the history and inner workings of the movement’s networks.

“It really surprised me, and I thought to myself: ‘Chanel in the Resistance? How in the world could I have missed something as big as that?” he recalled, saying he went on to spend two weeks chasing down the documents.

He finally found them in the French military archives in the eastern Paris suburb of Vincennes.

“When I opened up the file, something struck me right away: It was basically empty. Aside from two official documents, there was nothing there. I’ve rarely come across such a dry file,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, Pollack explained, such files are filled to the brim with information explaining the exact role and actions of the resistance member in question, and are backed up with several third-party testimonies. 

Pollack explained that the reason for this is that these files were compiled by the French government after the end of World War II and conform to special legislation that stipulates how and under what circumstances a person can be officially recognised as a onetime member of the French Resistance.

“If one thing is clear, it is that in order to be called a résistant (member of the Resistance), you need to have been active as such and recognised [by others] as such.”

“In this case, there is none of that – not a single trace,” he said, noting that a bare-bones certificate with Chanel’s name does not offer convincing proof.

An important year for Chanel

The second document, citing Chanel’s role in the Eric network, also puzzled Pollack: “It seemed really strange to me.” 

Eric was a French resistance network that, for the most part, operated in the Balkans. Pollack said that even though its leader, René Simonin, was repatriated to Paris in 1943 and the network continued to work from the French capital for another year, there is no mention of Chanel in any other documentation related to the network apart from the affiliation certificate found in the military archives and presented at the exhibition.

On top of that, the network name, “Eric”, was written over a part of the document that had clearly been whited out.  

A document purporting to show that Chanel belonged to the French Resistance network
A document purporting to show that Chanel belonged to the French Resistance network “Eric”. © Guillaume Pollack / Private / Archive reference number: SHD/GR 16 P 118851

Pollack said he also questioned the date that Chanel’s membership certificate was issued: 1957. Chanel was 74 years old at the time, and Pollack said that was unusually late compared to other Resistance members.

It was also “the year Chanel was honoured with the ‘Oscar’ of fashion”, he said, referring to the prestigious Neiman Marcus fashion award created in 1938. At the time, it was one of the only international fashion designer awards in existence. 

No reason to keep it secret

Pollack said that if Chanel really was a member of the French Resistance, she would have had no reason to keep it secret and it would likely have been known before now.

“Especially considering the context surrounding Coco Chanel [who has long been known as a collaborator], it just doesn’t make sense.”

She may have had documents produced to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation in certain circles after the war, Pollack suggested

“In the 1950s, several different Resistance veteran organisations emerged. It would have prompted a lot of questions from former Resistance fighters” if Chanel had claimed to have been part of the movement, Pollack said, noting she would most likely have had to justify her role by providing details on what she did, where, when and with whom.

Pollack said he has “doubts, huge doubts, about this documentation” that has newly been discovered. “The certificate proves nothing.”

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Financial abuse in intimate relationships, a red flag for domestic violence

Stealing money from bank accounts, forbidding or sabotaging work, controlling or unevenly splitting household expenses: financial abuse in intimate relationships persists in France. Often undetected, it’s frequently linked to physical violence.

Despite the advances of the 2021 Rixain Law, which aims to promote economic equality among genders, more than 200,000 women in France continue to suffer at the hands of their intimate partners due to a lack of early detection and prevention.  

Financial abuse is one of six types of domestic violence reported in France, which include psychological, verbal, physical, sexual as well as legal and administrative abuse.  

According to a November report published by the Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes (FNSF) – a nationwide network of nonprofit organisations dedicated to helping women victims of violence – around 26 percent of women in France said they had suffered financial abuse in 2022, a percentage point higher than in 2021. 

Handling a total of 93,005 calls last year, the FNSF, which operates the 3919 hotline, noted an increase in the number of women living with financial insecurity.

“This can take different forms, such as the woman being forbidden to work, but also the confiscation of household resources by the perpetrator of the violence, such as family allowances and wages, thus preventing women from leaving the aggressor. And sometimes, they don’t even have a bank account,” FNSF Executive Director Françoise Brié told FRANCE 24. 

Twenty euros a week from her husband 

“It’s a pernicious form of violence,” Brié said as she related the testimony of a woman who was given a mere €20 per week by her high-income husband to feed herself and her children, as well as provide for all their basic needs.  

This type of abuse takes place within the home, but can also continue after a couple separates, with non-payment of child support or repeated legal proceedings against women who have little or no resources. 

Read moreFor survivors of gender-based violence in French overseas territories, ‘silence prevails’

Financial advisor Héloïse Bolle, the author of the book “Aux thunes citoyennes!” (Here’s to women’s money!), pointed out that unequal financial distribution within the household can also be seen as a form of economic abuse. 

“When a person lives with a partner who earns a lot more money and imposes a 50-50 splitting of expenses in spite of this, it contributes to the woman’s impoverishment and prevents her from saving money,” Bolle said. 

A survey conducted by research institute Ifop for the feminist newsletter “Les Glorieuses” published in late October revealed that 16 percent of women in France have suffered from this kind of abuse. 

The report also noted that 41 percent of the women who had been in intimate partnerships had experienced some form of financial abuse at least once. 

“Many have found themselves in difficult financial situations, because they have accepted this type of expense allocation, often without having thought about it beforehand,” Bolle said, adding that many victims were even unaware of the financial abuse they had experienced. 

Risk indicator 

While often undetected, financial abuse can serve as a “risk indicator”, Brié said. 

“[Abuses] are often linked to physical violence or can be a warning sign that should not be overlooked,” she said. 

To raise awareness, “Les Glorieuses” newsletter has produced an online test, and a special barometer based on the same model as “The Violence Meter“, which is a tool that helps to identify violent behaviour and measure whether a relationship is healthy or violent. 

While the FNSF calls for a better definition of financial abuse as well as higher awareness among banks and other financial institutions, “Les Glorieuses” said raising women’s salaries could be another key to addressing the problem, given that a woman is twice as likely to be a victim of domestic financial abuse if she earns less than her partner. 

And this is very often the case, as France has a gender pay gap of around 15 percent, according to a study published by the national statistics agency (INSEE) in March. 

Government action 

Recent action undertaken by the French government has helped prevent some of the financial abuse that women often fall victim to. 

The Rixain Law, which was passed by the French parliament in 2021, has made it compulsory for companies to pay out wages into individual or joint bank accounts held by their employees.  

The law also made it possible to opt for personalised income tax rates, so that rates are in line with the salary level of each spouse.  

new regulation that came into effect October 1 would allow disabled married people in France to perceive an increase of €300 on average in their monthly disability allowance, which is known as the allocation aux adultes handicapés, or AAH. 

By no longer taking a spouse’s income into account, the new measure aims to help prevent disabled women from being taken advantage of. 

The French parliament also voted in February for an emergency aid that will allow victims of domestic violence to apply for financial support ranging from €250 to over €1,300 – per month, for a limited period – based on the applicant’s financial situation.  

Lack of resources for nonprofits 

While the French state has increased its support of domestic violence victims, organisations say much more is needed to effectively help women who suffer abuse from their partners. 

“Women have done their bit by filing more complaints, and that’s still going on, but we need to be much more effective in supporting and protecting victims”, the president of the Fondation des Femmes (the Women’s Foundation), Anne-Cécile Mailfert, told AFP in an interview. 

As France reported a 15 percent annual surge in domestic violence in 2022, nonprofit organisations are struggling to find adequate funding as they are increasingly overwhelmed by the number of victims asking for help. 

“We are seeing organisations on the ground at the end of their tether, so overwhelmed by requests that some are going bankrupt,” Mailfert said.  

No longer able to offer victims support and accommodation, the nonprofits are desperately awaiting financial support from the state or local authorities, she said. 

The 3919 hotline provides information and guidance in 12 different languages: English, Arabic, Creole, Dari, Spanish, Hebrew, Kabyle, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese and Turkish in addition to French.

This article is a translation of the original in French

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Gender-based violence in French universities: ‘I decided something had to change’

The most prestigious universities and business schools in France such as Sciences Po and HEC train the country’s future executives and politicians. But due to the prevalence of gender-based violence that takes place on campus, for many students, they are also spaces that don’t feel safe.

On November 15, Nantes University published the results of a report and found that 4 of every 10 of its students have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The majority of victims identified as women or non-binary. 

A few months earlier, the French Observatory on Gender-Based Violence in Higher Education published its own report based on 10,000 student testimonials, which found that more than half of students don’t feel safe in their institutions, with 4 in 10 saying their school doesn’t do enough to combat gender-based violence. 71% of respondents identified as women.  

Run by student associations across France, the Observatory helps academic institutions track the gender-based violence and draw up preventative action plans, maps existing student initiatives and holds student conferences on the topic. 

In an October 2023 editorial published by French daily Libération, the Observatory and other student groups called for “an urgent increase in the [financial] resources dedicated to combating gender-based violence in higher education and research institutions”. A year earlier, in October 2022, Minister of Higher Education Sylvie Retailleau announced the budget to combat gender-based violence in French universities would be doubled. While student groups called this “a step in the right direction”, they said the €3.5 million allocated was “far from enough to cover” more than a few workshops and campaigns to raise awareness.    

“Establishments must set up the necessary tools to help prevent, report and support victims of gender-based violence,” the groups wrote in the editorial.  

That is where Safe Campus comes in. Though other French collectives combatting gender-based violence in higher education like CLASCHES exist, providing tools for victims and raising awareness on campuses, Safe Campus is the first organisation aimed at implementing preventative tools specifically in higher education institutions across France.  

Its founder, the 30-year-old Marine Dupriez, decided to set up the organisation after having studied at a top French business school, where she witnessed countless cases of gender-based violence and sexism.

FRANCE 24: What prompted you to take up the challenge of combatting gender-based violence in French universities?  

Marine Dupriez: What I experienced at business school was a deeply sexist, racist and homophobic culture. When I was a student, there was a school newspaper that would come out with a “whore of the month” for each edition. At the time, it’s not like the administration actively supported the newspaper, but it wasn’t strictly prohibited. Now practices like this have been banned.  

There is also a specific way in which prestigious universities in France are structured. Student associations are a key part of student life in these schools, and many students join these groups because it’s important for their education – it’s vital for networking. But at what cost? The recruitment process into these associations bring about group dynamics and integration rituals that are often violent. There are very little “positive” integration rituals.  

I eventually began volunteering for a number of associations that taught secondary school students about sex and emotional life while I was still in university. The more time passed, the more I realised how important it would be for these things to be taught in higher education institutions. 

After graduating, I joined an organisation focussed on the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. I would talk to my former classmates about the work I was doing and they would say how wonderful it was, but nobody would talk about what happened while we were at university. 

It’s as if my work and our shared experience of gender-based violence were two completely separate things. I decided that something had to change and took matters into my own hands.  

Can you briefly explain when you started Safe Campus and what it is you do?  

When I started Safe Campus in September 2019 and began contacting universities, all I got were refusals. Institutions would tell me that gender-based violence didn’t exist on their campuses, and if it did, that they had it under control. They closed the doors in my face. I almost gave up, but in January 2020, an investigation published by French online newspaper Mediapart found that gender-based violence was running rampant in these elite business schools. Universities started contacting me and we began working together the way we do today.  

We use a three-step approach. First, we work on improving or setting up reporting protocols. What that means is, if I’m a student and I’m experiencing gender-based violence, I’ll know exactly who to turn to and how. I will also know exactly how my report will be filed and the measures taken to treat it. We work on ensuring there is a clear protocol, staff at hand to deal with reports and that everybody knows this protocol exists.  

Marine Dupriez speaks to students about gender-based violence in order to raise awareness on the issue. © Marine Dupriez, Safe Campus

Then we train people according to their role in the protocol. We’ll work on how staff can support a victim, for example, in particular on what we call the “first listening session”, the first interview that allows a victim to speak out. We also provide training on investigations, because it’s up to universities to carry out disciplinary hearings to get to the bottom of a case.  

The last thing we do is raise awareness among students. And I use the term “raise awareness” intentionally. It’s not the student’s responsibility to get training on gender-based violence, it’s the administrations. We talk to students about how to prevent gender-based violence, consent, the legal framework and stereotypes, for example.  

It’s very important that this is the last step because very often when we intervene in an institution, people end up identifying situations they experienced as violent and turn to the administration to report what happened. If those taking in a victim’s report are not properly trained, it’s can be even more disappointing or hurtful.     

Does your work change depending on which university you intervene in?  

Gender-based violence is not the same across all universities in France. In prestigious establishments (“grandes écoles” in French) like business schools or engineering schools, there are more cases of violence between students, particularly during ritual parties or integration events. In bigger universities where campus life and student associations aren’t as present, there tends to be much more violence between professors and students. Often between a thesis director and their student, for example.  

There are also differences between private and public universities. In public institutions, there is no choosing sanctions or penalties, they are already detailed in French law. For example, the law stipulates that any civil servant who has knowledge of a crime or misdemeanour must report it. Private establishments on the other hand are more or less free to choose how to sanction gender-based violence.  

What is your biggest challenge?  

My challenges have changed with time. But there is one that persists, and that is the financial challenge. Unfortunately, these days, higher education institutions still don’t have enough time nor enough money to allocate to the prevention of gender-bases violence. So we’re obliged to do short interventions with large audiences, which inevitably will have less of an impact than long interventions with small groups.  

There are laws in France stating that each university should have an advisor or specialist to help victims of gender-based violence. But there is no obligation for these universities to open new jobs, or even to increase the salaries of staff who become advisors. It’s so important to relate the legal framework to the reality on the ground.  

What about when you speak to students? What are the biggest sticking points?   

It changes a lot depending on what year the students are in and what kind of university they’re attending. First year students are at an age where they are questioning their identity, their sexuality. They’re adults but they’re still discovering themselves. So things can get a bit tricky when we try to raise awareness, there can be frictions, because they’re still figuring things out and getting to know one another.  

But debates and frictions take place regardless of what year students are in. We sometimes get students who aren’t happy at all with what we’re saying, who find our presence extremely disturbing. That happens. We’re talking about difficult topics like sexual violence, but we’re also talking about consent and linking it to their everyday lives. For example, is it OK to get your mate to drink when they don’t want to? How does inebriation affect consent? 

The use of alcohol is actually a very big sticking point. And the notion of consent can really call into question habits that some students don’t want to lose.  

What makes you hopeful?  

When I work with universities today, especially prestigious grandes écoles, the majority of female-led student associations are being taken seriously. They speak out. They aren’t afraid of escalating issues to the administration. They’re being listened to. That would have been unimaginable four years ago.  

There is one university in particular where a female-led student association pushed so hard to prevent gender-based violence that now any student group leader has to go through mandatory training before being recruited.  

As someone who could only do this kind of work after graduating, I find it extremely moving. 

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French Senate debates compensation for gay men jailed under homophobic laws

An estimated 60,000 gay men were convicted by French courts between 1942 and 1982 under homophobic laws that were repealed just four decades ago. On Wednesday, French senators will discuss a bill acknowledging France’s role in the persecution of homosexuals and offering compensation to those still alive, mirroring steps taken elsewhere in Europe. 

The proposal put forward by Socialist Senator Hussein Bourgi tackles a little-known subject in French history, shedding light on the judicial repression of homosexuals carried out by the French state both in wartime and after the country’s Liberation from Nazi rule. 

France became the first country to decriminalise homosexuality during the Revolution of 1789, only to resume the persecution of gay men under subsequent regimes, through both judicial and extrajudicial means. 

Bourgi’s text focuses on a 40-year period following the introduction of legislation that specifically targeted homosexuals under the Nazi-allied Vichy regime. The 1942 law, which was not repealed after the liberation of France, introduced a discriminatory distinction in the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex, setting the former at 13 (raised to 15 at the Liberation) and the latter at 21.

Some 10,000 people – almost exclusively men, most of them working-class – were convicted under the law until its repeal in 1982, according to research by sociologists Régis Schlagdenhauffen and Jérémie Gauthier. More than 90% were sentenced to jail. An estimated 50,000 more were convicted under a separate “public indecency” law that was amended in 1960 to introduce an aggravating factor for homosexuals and double the penalty. 

“People tend to think France was protective of gay people compared to, say, Germany or the UK. But when you look at the figures you get a very different picture,” said Schlagdenhaufen, who teaches at the EHESS institute in Paris. 

“France was not this cradle of human rights we like to think of,” he added. “The Revolution tried to decriminalise homosexuality, but subsequent regimes found other stratagems to repress gay people. This repression was enshrined in law in 1942 and even more so in 1960.” 

Spain leads the way 

The bill put before the Senate on Wednesday calls for a formal recognition of the French state’s responsibility in the criminalisation and persecution of homosexuals. Mirroring steps taken in other Western countries, it proposes the establishment of a mechanism to compensate the victims of the French state’s homophobic laws, offering them a lump sum of €10,000, coupled with an allowance of €150 for each day spent in jail, and the reimbursement of fines. 

Most of those victims are likely to have died already, giving Bourgi’s proposal a largely symbolic value. If it is approved, the bill would also create a specific offence for denying the deportation of homosexuals during World War II, as there is for Holocaust denial. 

Schlagdenhaufen said France has a poor record when it comes to acknowledging some of the darker chapters in its history. He pointed to the belated recognition, in 1995, of the Vichy regime’s active role in the deportation of tens of thousands of French Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. 

“Recognition and reparation of historical wrongs are an important part of a country’s stance on the protection of LGBT rights,” he said. “If this law is approved, it will bring France more in line with European standards.” 

In 2007, Spain’s Socialist government passed pioneering legislation acknowledging the persecution of homosexuals under Franco’s regime and offering compensation to those who were jailed or tortured in “correction camps” because of their sexual orientation. The move was part of a raft of laws that have turned the country from one of Europe’s worst offenders to a world leader on sexual minority rights. 

A decade later, Germany’s parliament voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the war – and offer compensation. Earlier this month, Austria’s government announced it had set aside millions of euros to compensate thousands of gay people who faced prosecution until the turn of the century. 

“This financial compensation can never, never make up for the suffering and injustice that happened,” Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic told reporters as she detailed the plan, flanked by two LGBT flags. “But it is of immense importance that we (…) finally take responsibility for this part of our history.” 

Extrajudicial persecution 

Austria’s compensation fund will apply to people who suffered from the country’s discriminatory laws in terms of their health, their finances and their professional lives, whether or not they were eventually convicted. Its scope makes it significantly more ambitious than the proposal put before the French Senate on Wednesday. 

While welcoming Bourgi’s text, some experts have called for a more wide-ranging proposal, noting that the focus on Vichy-era legislation conceals a longer history of repression of homosexuality carried out by republican regimes as well. 

In an op-ed published by Le Monde last year, when Bourgi first presented his bill, sociologist Antoine Idier lamented the “timidity” of a proposal that falls significantly short of acknowledging the full scope of state-sponsored homophobia, which, he argued, extends well beyond the judicial sphere. 

“State homophobia (…) encompasses all the processes by which state policies have contributed (and contribute) to supporting the domination and inferiorisation of sexual minorities,” Idier wrote, adding that even a more restrictive view of state repression would find the Senate proposal deficient in its scope. 

“State repression of homosexuality dates back to long before 1942,” the sociologist explained, highlighting the extrajudicial persecution of gay people carried out by police throughout the 19th century – “a daily routine of mockery, humiliation, control and harassment”.  He pointed to the abusive use of “public indecency” charges, instituted under Napoleon in 1810 and instrumentalised to persecute homosexuals in the private sphere, long before the introduction of an aggravating factor in 1960. 

Failure to widen the scope of the bill, he added, “would mean turning a blind eye to a large part of the persecution of homosexuals and exonerating France of a large part of its responsibility”. 

Senate obstacle? 

Schlagdenhaufen said he hoped the senator’s text would set the foundation for further action. 

“We have to start somewhere,” he said. “And the legislation enacted in 1942 and 1960, with its direct focus on homosexuals, is a good place to start.” 

The bill’s passage into law is far from certain, Schlagdenhaufen cautioned, pointing to the composition of the Senate. France’s upper chamber of parliament is dominated by the conservative Les Républicains party, whose members overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage a decade ago, when the party was known as the UMP. 

“The Senate has a conservative, right-wing majority, which is traditionally reluctant to acknowledge the state’s responsibility in past repression,” he said, adding: “It is not particularly favourable to LGBT rights either.” 

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, a Senate committee expressed a number of reservations about the proposed text. It called for a “clear, strong and unambiguous recognition of the discriminatory nature of laws” targeting homosexuals but cited “legal obstacles” to financial reparations. The committee also argued that denying the wartime deportation of homosexuals is already punishable under French law, making part of Bourgi’s text redundant. 

The latter assertion will soon be put to the test at the latest, high-profile trial involving far-right TV pundit and former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who faces a lawsuit from several gay rights groups for arguing that a fellow politician was right to brand the World War II roundup and deportation of French homosexuals a “myth”. 

“It will be interesting to see what laws are cited when the court hands down its ruling,” Schlagdenhaufen observed. “We will have first-hand evidence of whether the Senate proposal really is ‘redundant’.” 

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Amitabh Bachchan Festival set at Festival des 3 Continents with nine films set to premiere in France : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

Having conducted a series of hugely successful retrospectives in cinemas across the country over the last year in India – Bachchan Back To The Beginning, Dilip Kumar – Hero of Heroes and Dev Anand @ 100 – Forever Young, Film Heritage Foundation, the not-for-profit organization founded by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, is gearing up to co-present yet another Amitabh Bachchan retrospective at an international film festival for the very first time. Titled Amitabh Bachchan, Big B Forever, the retrospective will be premiered at the 45th edition of the prestigious Festival des 3 Continents this year which will take place from November 24 to December 3, 2023 in Nantes, France. It will feature nine blockbuster films of the living legend such as Abhimaan, Sholay, Deewar, Kabhie Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Don and Kala Patthar. Shweta Bachchan, the daughter of the film superstar will be travelling to Nantes to represent her father at the festival.

Amitabh Bachchan Festival set at Festival des 3 Continents with nine films set to premiere in France

Amitabh Bachchan states, “Film Heritage Foundation’s initiative to bring classic Indian films back on the big screen in India has been truly remarkable. I am so pleased to hear that they are co-presenting a selection of nine of my early films at one of the oldest and most reputed film festivals – the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, especially as it focuses on the cinema of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Many of these films gave me an opportunity to play a diverse range of characters and work with some of the most significant filmmakers of the time including Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra and Ramesh Sippy. I hope that the festival audience will enjoy the selection of films that continue to give so much joy to viewers even half a century since they were made. Even though I will not be there in person, I am delighted that my daughter Shweta will be in Nantes to represent me at the festival.”

Shweta Bachchan states, “I am delighted to travel to Nantes for the Festival des 3 Continents to present some of my father Amitabh Bachchan’s milestone films at such a distinguished festival. This is a special occasion for me as I have the opportunity, for the first time, to represent my father, on an international platform. I would like to thank the Film Heritage Foundation for their exceptional commitment and ability in showcasing classic Indian cinema and drawing audiences back to the big screen when no one had faith that this would be possible. I saw the phenomenal success of “Bachchan Back to the Beginning” – the retrospective they curated on a massive scale to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday last year. Many of us in the family were watching his films on the big screen for the first time and we were overwhelmed. The films being screened in Nantes cover varied genres that will give the audiences at the festival the opportunity to see my father’s remarkable versatility as an actor.”

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director, of Film Heritage Foundation states, “Film Heritage Foundation is proud to co-present ‘Amitabh Bachchan, Big B Forever’- a retrospective of nine landmark films that launched the career of India’s greatest superstar at the 45th edition of the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France. We had presented an eclectic selection of Indian classics in the Indian Autumn stream of the festival last year and saw the enthusiastic response to the films from the festival audience. We would like to thank Jérôme Baron, the Artistic Director of the festival for giving us another opportunity this year to showcase nine Amitabh Bachchan films spanning a period from 1973 to 1982 when Mr. Bachchan was at the peak of his career, at the festival this year. Mr. Bachchan is an actor who is a worldwide phenomenon and an indefatigable champion for the cause of film preservation and when we conducted a country-wide retrospective of his films last year, the cinemas were packed and the audiences went crazy. Mr. Bachchan has been a childhood hero for me and it gives me immense pleasure to screen some of my personal favourite Amitabh Bachchan films as part of such a prestigious festival as well as to present Film Heritage Foundation’s most recent restoration ‘Ishanou’ (1990), Aribam Syam Sharma’s beautiful Manipuri film that had a red-carpet world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2023.”

Jérôme Baron, Artistic Director, Festival Des 3 Continents states, “The Festival of 3 Continents finds its breath and inspiration by combining its curiosity for contemporary cinema with that nurtured since its origins for classics that are often poorly known or unknown to Western audiences. And Amitabh Bachchan is precisely, as he continues a career that began fifty years ago, the living and iconic embodiment of a link between the past and present of popular Hindi cinema. He is an on screen unique performer and what no other actor has ever been, including in the history of European cinema. After a fruitful collaboration in 2022 with Film Heritage Foundation, we want, by seizing the ball thrown of the “Bachchan Back to the beginning” festival launched last year, to pay Amitabh Bachchan for the first time in France a tribute in nine films which will also be the opportunity to show the world premiere of Cédric Dupire’s astonishing documentary on him ‘The Real Superstar.’”

Festival des 3 Continents offers feature films from Africa, Latin America and Asia and screens, in the fiction and documentary films segment.

ALSO READ: Amitabh Bachchan playfully ponders whether his presence will affect World Cup 2023 outcome; says, “Jaun ki na jaun”

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What we know about the French senator accused of drugging an MP in attempted sex assault

French Senator Joël Guerriau is facing preliminary charges of drugging a fellow lawmaker with the intent to commit “rape or sexual assault”, prosecutors confirmed Friday, in a case that has shocked France. Guerriau was suspended from both his Horizons party and his Senate group on Saturday. 

The 66-year-old senator from western France was arrested at his Paris home on Thursday over the alleged attempted assault of Sandrine Josso, 48, a member of the lower-house National Assembly. He is accused of drugging the MP by spiking her drink after he invited her to his home. 

Guerriau was placed under judicial supervision on Friday pending the outcome of the investigation, restricting his freedom of movement. Prosecutors said the two politicians were long-standing acquaintances but were not in a relationship. 

Guerriau’s centre-right party Horizons, which is allied to President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, said on Saturday it had suspended the senator “with immediate effect” and initiated disciplinary proceedings “that could lead to his permanent exclusion”.  

His Senate group Les Indépendants, which includes senators from Horizons and other centre-right parties, announced it was taking the same steps in a statement shortly after.

  • What has Guerriau been charged with?

Guerriau is facing preliminary charges of “administering to a person, without their knowledge, a substance likely to impair their discernment or control over their actions in order to commit rape or sexual assault”, according to the Paris public prosecutor’s office.  

His lawyer Rémi-Pierre Drai said he denies the charge. Guerriau was also charged with possessing drugs, Drai added.

Joël Guerriau, 66, has been a French senator since 2011. © Paul Brounais, Wikimedia Creative Commons

The senator was arrested after Josso filed a legal complaint. He was detained under rules of “flagrancy”, which grant investigators special powers – such as overriding parliamentary immunity – when the suspect is caught in the act or shortly thereafter. Searches were carried out at Guerriau’s office and also at his home, where investigators found ecstasy, a potent drug that causes both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. 

Guerriau and the alleged victim were jointly questioned, in their lawyers’ presence, for nearly two hours on Friday, a common practice in France known as a “confrontation”. After his release from police custody, the senator was placed under judicial supervision and banned from contacting Josso or any witnesses. 

Under French law, preliminary charges mean that the investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but need more time to determine whether to send a case to trial. Charges levelled at Guerriau carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a €75,000 fine.

  • What do we know about the incident? 

Josso told investigators she felt ill after having a drink on Tuesday night at the senator’s Paris apartment, prosecutors said. According to French broadcaster BFMTV, which cited sources close to the investigation, the MP told police that the two had initially agreed to meet at a restaurant but that Guerriau suggested they dine at his home instead.

Her lawyer, Julia Minkowski, told AFP that her client felt unwell after drinking a glass of champagne and had seen the senator “grabbing a small plastic bag containing something white in a drawer in his kitchen”. Josso then realised that he was trying to drug her without her knowledge, the counsel added. 

“She had to deploy monumental physical and intellectual forces to overcome her terror and extricate herself at the last minute from this ambush,” Minkowski said, adding that her client was “in a state of shock”. 

Josso was admitted to hospital for tests, which revealed the presence of ecstasy in her system. The lawmaker subsequently lodged a complaint. 

Guerriau’s lawyer denied his client intended to assault the lawmaker, claiming it was a “handling error” that caused her to fall ill. The senator “will fight to prove he never intended to administer a substance to his colleague and longstanding friend to abuse her”, Drai said in a statement to the press. 

A former banker, Guerriau has been a member of the Senate, the French parliament’s upper house, since 2011, representing the western Loire-Atlantique region. He currently serves as deputy head of its foreign affairs and defence committee.  

Guerriau joined Horizons, the party created by former prime minister Edouard Philippe, in 2022, having previously been involved with a variety of centre-right parties. He was also deputy head of Les Indépendants, the group he sits with in the French Senate.

Guerriau’s lawyer said his client was “not a predator”, describing him as “an honest man, respected and respectable, who will restore his and his family’s honour”.  

The senator was previously unknown to the general public, though he made waves on social media in December 2016 when a post on the Islamic State (IS) group appeared on his Twitter account with a close-up picture of a penis. Guerriau claimed his account had been hacked and vowed to press charges, but later dropped the matter.  

Josso is a member of the lower-house National Assembly, also from Loire-Atlantique. She was first elected in 2017 under the banner of Macron’s fledgling party La République en Marche (LREM) and is now a member of its centrist ally MoDem. 

Her lawyer said Guerriau “had been a friend for around 10 years in whom she had complete confidence”, stressing her client’s “feeling of betrayal and total incomprehension”.   

  • What has been the response among the political class? 

Several politicians have expressed their shock on social media and called for a swift investigation.  

The allegations, “if proven, are horrific”, Environment Minister Christophe Béchu, a member of Horizons, told France Inter radio on Friday, adding that Guerriau “can obviously no longer remain in the party (…) if there is any element of doubt”.  

Horizons’ political bureau voted unanimously on Saturday to suspend Guerriau “with immediate effect”. Bureau members said they were “deeply shocked by the facts at the root of the accusations” and had initiated a “disciplinary procedure that could lead to (the senator’s) permanent exclusion”. 

The party said it would “never tolerate the slightest complacency toward sexual and sexist violence” and promised to call the plaintiff to express its support and solidarity. 

Guerriau’s Senate group released a statement shortly after, saying it had also suspended the senator and initiated disciplinary proceedings. 

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