Thousands of people took the “Me too” online campaign against sexual harassment and assault started by the Harvey Weinstein affair onto the streets of France Sunday.
In Paris, the mostly female demonstrators in Republique square waved placards bearing the “#Metoo” hashtag used by tens of thousands of women in the past two weeks to share accounts of being pestered or abused.
“Metoo by a colleague”, read a sign carried by one woman. “Metoo by a fellow activist” read another.
Similar gatherings were also held in Marseille, Bordeaux and Lille, among other cities.
According to Paris police, 2,500 people turned out for the rally in the French capital. Elsewhere the numbers were smaller, with one or two hundred turning up for each march.
The rallies were organised by freelance journalist Carol Galand, who said she wanted to ensure the campaign to end sexual violence and harassment of women went “beyond social media buzz”.
Margot, an 18-year-old waitress demonstrating in Paris, told AFP that she had been molested by a male colleague in work.
When she brought it up with a superior she was told it was simply “his way of communicating”.
In Bordeaux, a young woman said she had remained silent about being drugged and raped at a party at the age of 15.
“You don’t talk about it because you don’t want it to cause a ruckus in your family,” she said.
French feminists have said they believe the #metoo campaign could mark a turning point on attitudes towards sexual predation in a country long seen as soft on the issue.
Polanski back in spotlight
The campaign began in the US in response to the plethora of abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and was quickly copied in France, where many women used the #balancetonporc (expose your pig) hashtag to share tales of harassment.
Since it started, several prominent figures have been targeted in French assault claims, including a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron’s party, a judge on France’s equivalent of “America’s Got Talent” and renowned Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan, a leading lecturer in Islamic studies.
Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in the 1970s, has also been hit with new abuse claims.
Swiss prosecutors are investigating new rape allegations against Polanski made by a Swiss woman — bringing to at least four the number of people who have publicly accused him of assault.
Feminist groups plan protests on Monday outside a Paris-based film archive where is scheduled to attend the launch of a retrospective of his work.