The new French government commits to “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse

A French government spokeswoman said there would be ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual misconduct by members of French President Emmanuel Macron’s new government

PARIS – There will be “zero tolerance” for sexual misconduct by members of French President Emmanuel Macron’s new government, but the judiciary, not the press, will decide the truth, a government spokeswoman said after the Media coverage of Monday’s first Cabinet meeting focused on a minister accused of rape.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the second woman ever appointed to the post, met Damien Abad, head of France‘s disability policy, on Sunday evening to discuss allegations of two women who said they assaulted them more ten years old. He has strongly denied the charges, which surfaced over the weekend after his nomination on Friday. He said such claims would be impossible, given his own disability, which affects joints and muscles.

“What is at stake is establishing the truth,” said government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire, taking office for the first time after the first cabinet meeting of the new government.

“And it is up to the judicial authorities to do so. Not me, not you either,” she told reporters.

Monday’s first Cabinet meeting focused on helping struggling French families regain some purchasing power and other issues to “change the lives of French people“, Gregoire said.

But the scandal has also given the Macron government an opportunity to side firmly with women who say they have been sexually abused.

Grégoire encouraged other women who could be victims “to present themselves without reservation” to the judicial authorities, stressing that the government “is at the side of those, following an attack or harassment, who have the immense courage to speak out” and others who “walled in silence, or were walled in”,

Borne said on Sunday that she was not aware of the allegations against Abad, but “there will be no impunity” in such cases for members of the government if the judicial authorities intervene.

Abad, who was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the joints and muscles, said in a statement on Sunday that “the charges relate to acts or gestures that are simply impossible for me because of my disability.”

He said he was forced to clarify that “the sexual act can only take place with the assistance and help of my partner”, and the allegations of one of the women “that I could drug, carry, stripping and raping an unconscious woman is simply inconceivable and despicable.

The allegations of the two women were revealed on Saturday, the day after the announcement of the new government, by the online investigative publication Mediapart.

In one case, a complaint was filed twice, in 2012 and 2017, and later dismissed, the government spokesman said. No legal action has so far been taken in the other case, although a women’s watchdog group said it informed leading members of Macron’s centrist party and Abad’s previous party of the complaints on Tuesday. May 16 – four days before the government announcement.

The timing couldn’t be worse for Macron, who is trying to hold on to his parliamentary majority in a June election so he can push his agenda forward.

The growing scandal around Abad has somewhat drowned out the outcry over the new education minister, Pap Ndiaye, a historian who had previously headed the National Museum of Immigration History. He is challenged by the right-wing opposition for being too “woke” – for example, for allegedly attending rallies that excluded white people. He did not comment.

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