Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased, depending on the age of the victim and the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.
In August 2015 the daily newspaper Le Figaro published figures showing that the number of reported rapes in the country increased by 18 percent from 2010 to 2014, while rape allegations involving children rose by more than 20 percent in the same period. Crimes against women who belonged to an ethnic minority were generally underreported, as they were less likely to file a lawsuit if their presence in the country was undocumented.
The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies according to the type of crime, ranging from three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($49,500) to 20 years in prison. The government reported that spouses killed 115 women and 21 men in domestic violence cases in 2015, a 3.5 percent decrease from 2014. The National Observatory on Delinquency and Criminal Responses estimated that 223,000 women between the ages 18 and 75 residing in the country were victims of physical and sexual domestic violence in metropolitan France in 2010-15. The government sponsored and funded programs targeted at female victims of violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to fighting domestic violence.
The government budgeted 66 million euros ($73 million) to fund its 2014-16 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, a 50 percent increase above the previous three-year plan. The program focused on enhancing protection and social assistance for survivors, increasing the number of social workers in police stations and beds in emergency shelters, lengthening the operating hours of a free emergency domestic abuse hotline, raising public awareness regarding rape and violence against women, and improving training to help health-care and other government employees identify victims.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities where FGM/C was prevalent. The law prohibits FGM/C as “violence involving mutilation or permanent infirmity.” It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison (20 years if it involves a minor under age 15 and when the offense is committed by a person with authority over the minor) and a fine of 150,000 euros ($165,000). The law also criminalizes inciting a minor to undergo FGM/C and inciting another person to perform FGM/C. Both are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 75,000 euros ($82,500). The government provides reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C victims.
According to the Ministry of Families, Childhood, and Women’s Rights, during 2014 approximately 20,000 women, half of whom were minors, were circumcised or at risk of FGM/C. According to a study released in 2007 by the National Institute for Demographic Studies, 53,000 circumcised women resided in the country. The majority of FGM/C survivors were recent immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries where the procedure was performed.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based harassment of subordinates by superiors. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” The law divides sexual harassment into two categories: the first, for repeated instances of harassment, carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a 30,000 euros ($33,000) fine; the second, for a single serious offense, carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euros ($49,500) fine. The law also criminalizes discrimination against transgender individuals.
The Ministry of Justice estimated that 300,000 cases of sexual harassment occurred each year but that only approximately 1,000 victims filed complaints. Of those, approximately 60 resulted in convictions, with an average penalty of 1,000 euros ($1,100). In 2014 the defender of rights published a French Institute of Public Opinion survey that indicated one in five women reported facing sexual harassment in her professional life and that 5 percent of those cases were brought to trial. According to a report released by parliament on November 16, a total of 1,048 lawsuits were filed in 2014, of which 65 led to convictions, representing a 6.2 percent conviction rate.
In 2014 Defense Minister Le Drian announced an action plan to fight sexual harassment and violence against women in the armed forces. The plan focused on four main areas: victims’ assistance, prevention, transparency (notably the publication of annual statistics on this matter), and disciplinary sanctions. The plan also included the creation of a surveillance unit to protect victims of sexual harassment and violence in the army.
In July 2015 Minister of State for Women’s Rights Boistard, Interior Minister Cazeneuve, and Transport Minister Vidalies announced a 12-point plan to combat sexual harassment on public transport, including a text alert system to report incidents more rapidly. The announcement followed a survey, published in April 2015 by the High Council for Equality between Men and Women, in which 100 percent of 600 women surveyed from Seine-Saint-Denis and Essonne reported they had experienced sexual harassment on public transport.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and had the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors but does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The Ministry for Families, Childhood and Women’s Rights is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions and the government generally enforced the laws.
There was discrimination against women with respect to employment and occupation (see section 7.d.) and women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership.
Birth Registration: The law confers nationality to a child born to at least one parent with citizenship or to a child born in the country to stateless parents or to parents whose nationality does not transfer to the child. Parents must register births of children regardless of citizenship within three days at the local city hall. Parents who do not register within this period are subject to legal action.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Child marriage was a problem, particularly in communities of African or Asian descent. According to human rights observers, 70,000 children between ages 10 and 18 were at risk of forced marriage. Although most forced marriage ceremonies occurred outside the country, authorities took steps to address the problem. The law provides for the prosecution of forced marriage cases, even when the marriage occurred abroad. Penalties for violations are up to three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euro ($49,500) fine. Women and girls could seek refuge at shelters if their parents or guardians threatened them with forced marriage. The government offered educational programs to inform young women of their rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information regarding girls under age 18 in the women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the statutory rape of minors under age 15, the minimum age for consensual sex, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for statutory rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased depending on the age of the victim and relationship to the accused. The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1,500,000 euros ($1,650,000). If the minor is under age 15, the penalty is increased to 15 years’ imprisonment and a 3,000,000-euro ($3.3 million) fine. The sale or trafficking of children is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment and a 1,500,000 euro ($1,650,000) fine. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for statutory rape survivors. The law prohibits child pornography, and the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a 75,000 euro ($82,500) fine.
According to the most recent estimate available, a 2007 parliamentary report by the Commission on Foreign Affairs, between 3,000 and 8,000 children were sexually exploited in the country each year. Unaccompanied foreign minors were exploited for sexual purposes. Reports indicated that significant numbers of children, primarily from Romania, West Africa, and North Africa, were victims of forced prostitution in the country.
On June 16, a UNICEF study warned that children living in refugee camps such as Calais and Dunkirk were exposed to sexual exploitation, trafficking, and abuse on a daily basis (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/legal/compliance.html.
There were approximately 550,000 Jewish residents in the country.
NGO and government observers reported numerous anti-Semitic incidents during the year, including physical and verbal assaults and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials. On December 2, former interior minister Cazeneuve announced a significant decrease in anti-Semitic acts committed between January 1 and October 31. The statistics, based on complaints filed with police and gendarmes, showed the number of anti-Semitic acts (including threats and attacks) dropped by 61 percent compared with the same period in 2015.
Both the Ministry of Interior and the Jewish Community Protection Service’s annual report cited 808 anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, compared with 851 in 2014. Although they made up only one percent of the country’s population, Jews were the target of approximately 40 percent of hate crimes. According to press reports, anti-Semitism was causing a growing number of French Jews to leave their suburban homes and move to Paris. The mayor of Sarcelles, a Paris suburb, reportedly stated that he became aware of “a phenomenon of internal migration” approximately five or six years earlier and claimed that it was getting worse.
On January 11, a 15-year-old Turkish teenager of Kurdish origin stabbed a 35-year-old Jewish teacher with a machete in the southern city of Marseille. The attack took place as the teacher, who was wearing a yarmulke, was on his way to work at the Franco-Hebraic institute. The assailant injured the teacher slightly before being stopped and arrested by the police 10 minutes later. On January 13, the teenager was formally charged with “attempted murder on the grounds of religion and terrorist sympathizing” and placed in pretrial detention.
During the year the French cartoonist Zeon, who had a reputation for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel artwork, won the second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri in Tehran. His cartoon depicted the entry gate of a Nazi death camp atop a cash register with “six million” in cash inside. The National Bureau for the Vigilance against Anti-Semitism filed a lawsuit against Zeon for displaying anti-Semitic posters in various places around in Paris in 2011. On November 10, he appeared before the Paris criminal court.
President Hollande and other government leaders condemned anti-Semitism during the year.
In January 2015 Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish hostages and critically injured four others at a supermarket in Paris before being killed by police. As of January, seven men had been formally charged and placed in pretrial detention for their alleged links to Coulibaly. According to the Ministry of Interior, as of January, 12,000 sites were protected by security forces across the country, 26 percent of them Jewish.
In March the mayor of Montpellier, Philippe Saurel, joined Mayors United against Anti-Semitism, an initiative calling on municipal leaders to publicly address and take concrete actions against anti-Semitism. Other participating cities included Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Nice, and Nancy.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.
While the law requires companies with more than 20 workers to hire persons with disabilities, many such companies failed to do so (see section 7.d.).
The law requires that buildings, education, and employment be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to government estimates, 40 percent of establishments in the country were accessible. In July 2015 the parliament ratified decrees that extend the deadline for owners to make their buildings and facilities accessible by three to nine years. On May 20, President Hollande announced that, as of May 1, a half million public buildings across the country were undergoing major renovation work to improve accessibility.
In 2013 the Council of Europe issued a resolution that criticized the country for not fulfilling its educational obligations to persons with autism. The council’s European Committee of Social Rights concluded that the country was violating the European Social Charter and called on it to report on its progress in improving the schooling of children and training of young adults with autism. According to NGOs, only 20 percent of the estimated 80,000-100,000 children with autism in the country attended school; the government meanwhile estimated that 29,000 children with autism attended school during the 2015-16 school year.
In April a Strasbourg administrative court ordered the government to pay a 3,800 euros ($4,200) fine to the family of a young boy with a disability for failing to facilitate his education.
The law requires the establishment of centers in each administrative department to help individuals with disabilities in receiving compensation and employment assistance. During the year one million persons with disabilities received financial support from the government. As of September the government paid each adult with disabilities 808.46 euros ($890) per month.
In April 2015 the minister of state for persons with disabilities and the fight against exclusion announced the enhancement of the government’s autism plan for 2013-17. On May 20, President Hollande announced that 60 separate classes in preschool and kindergarten for children with autism had been created since 2012.
Societal violence and discrimination against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem. Many observers expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.
Citizens, asylum seekers, and migrants may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the defender of rights. According to the most recent data available, in 2015 the defender of right’s office received 4,846 discrimination claims, 22.6 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin.
In one prominent case from 2013, the National Front party suspended a local electoral candidate, Anne-Sophie Leclere, for a Facebook posting indicating she would prefer to see then justice minister Christiane Taubira, who was black, “swinging from the branches rather than in government.” In 2014 the criminal court in Cayenne, French Guiana, sentenced Leclere to nine months in prison, banned her from holding public office for five years, and fined her 50,000 euros ($55,000). The court also fined the National Front 30,000 euro ($33,000). Both parties appealed the ruling. In June 2015 the Cayenne appeals court cancelled the nine-month prison sentence. The court also ruled that the legal action against Leclere, filed by the Guyanese association Walwari, was not admissible. On September 28, the Paris criminal court sentenced her to a suspended 3,000 euros ($3,300) fine.
Based on unofficial government estimates, the Muslim community was between five and six million persons and consisted primarily of immigrants from former French North African and sub-Saharan colonies and their descendants. Government observers and NGOs reported a number of anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing Interior Ministry figures, registered a 63 and 79 percent decrease in anti-Muslim racist incidents and threats during the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2015.
The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing Interior Ministry figures, registered a 52 percent decrease in anti-Muslim racist acts during the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2015. From January 1 to September 30, 149 anti-Muslim acts were committed compared to 323 during the same period in 2015.
Following a December 2015 demonstration against an ambush on that injured two firefighters in a housing project in Ajaccio, Corsica, a mob attacked a Muslim prayer room and tried to set fire to copies of the Quran. The mob also vandalized a kebab shop and shouted slogans, such as “Arabs get out!” and “This is our home!” in the Corsican language. Corsican nationalist leaders condemned both incidents as racist acts. Interior Minister Cazeneuve condemned the acts as “intolerable” acts against a place of worship that carried the “odor of racism and xenophobia.” Corsica’s prefect, Christophe Mirmand, announced that he would ban protests in and around the Jardins de l’Empereur estate after riot police and gendarmes stopped a crowd of approximately 300 persons from entering it. In December 2015 two men were formally charged for links to the attack on firefighters; a date for their trial had not been set by year’s end.
On April 30, a Muslim prayer hall in Corsica was destroyed by a fire. According to Ajaccio’s public prosecutor, based on hydrocarbon traces found inside the hall the fire was probably a criminal act. No one was injured in the fire. The same day President Hollande issued a statement expressing his solidarity with the Muslims of Corsica. An investigation into the incident continued at year’s end.
In an August 26 decision, the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, rejected the city of Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban on conservative, full-body swimwear worn by some Muslim women. Municipalities claimed the ban was put in place as a security measure following the July attacks in Nice. In its ruling the court asserted the beachwear posed no real risk to public order and, in the absence of such risk, the restriction of individual freedoms could not be justified. The mayors of several cities including Nice dismissed the verdict and announced they would continue to enforce bans on full-body swimwear at public beaches.
Societal hostility against Roma, including Romani migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, continued to be a problem. There were reports of anti-Roma violence by private citizens. Romani individuals, including migrants, experienced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.). According to a government study, an estimated 20,000 Roma resided in the country.
Authorities dismantled camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma throughout the year. In the first half of the year, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported the eviction of 4,615 Roma in 37 different localities. According to ERRC and Human Rights League data, authorities evicted 11,128 Roma from 111 illegal camps in 2015, an 18 percent decrease from 2014, when 13,483 Roma were evicted. According to the ERRC, of the 111 settlement evictions, 76 followed a court decision and 31 followed a municipal or prefect order. Given the lack of housing alternatives, individuals generally moved to other camps after their eviction. In its annual report covering 2015, Amnesty International reported that authorities conducted forced evictions of Roma and failed to provide adequate alternative housing to evicted Romani individuals and families.
In September 2015 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed serious concern regarding forced evictions of Roma and Travelers in the country. He warned that authorities appeared to be making such evictions “systematic national policy” since 2012, noting the August 2015 eviction of more than 150 inhabitants of a shantytown in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Al Hussein noted that failure to improve treatment of Roma “simply exacerbates entrenched popular discrimination against what is already one of Europe’s most deprived and marginalized communities.” He also noted that during the year both the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Committee asked authorities to refrain from forced evictions if they did not provide alternative housing.
On May 2, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights noted in its annual report that persistent societal tensions regarding the acceptance of certain minorities, notably the Romani population, and emphasized that anti-Roma prejudice remained high. In June the Operational Platform for Roma Equality, a network of European agencies, stated that evictions had a particularly traumatizing impact on children, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and other abuses.
In August a group of unknown assailants attacked Roma living in a Marseille settlement with a knife and a Molotov cocktail. Seven persons were hospitalized, according to local media. At year’s end no suspects had been arrested in the case.
On September 27, the Collective for the Right of Roma Children to Education released a study conducted between November 2015 and July in 34 shantytowns across the country showing that 53 percent of children between ages 12 and 18 were not attending school.
Regarding “gens du voyage” (or Travelers), the law requires municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to provide a campsite for Travelers with sanitary facilities and access to water and electricity. According to authorities, the law is meant to accommodate Travelers by preventing them from parking on unauthorized sites. As of 2010 the most recent year for which data were available, municipalities had built only 52 percent of the campsites required by law.
The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs. In September 2015 the Ministry of Justice launched a website to inform and assist victims of discrimination.
On April 18, Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, Youth Minister Patrick Kanner, and State Secretary for Real Equality Ericka Bareigts jointly inaugurated a national campaign to counter hiring discrimination. Labor Minister El Khomri announced that blind resume testing would be used to name and shame companies found guilty of biases in hiring.
On May 9, the ombudsman for human rights, Jacques Toubon, released a report on government discrimination against foreigners and failure to uphold their fundamental rights. The report noted several examples, including retired workers from Benin who could not get a state pension because they did not have French citizenship, despite having worked in the country for most their lives, and schools that refused to accept children of irregular migrants, despite being required to do so by law. The report called on the government to “prevent the spread of divergent or illegal interpretations of the law” in order to protect foreigners living in the country.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statute of limitations is 12 months for offenses related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Authorities pursued and punished perpetrators of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The NGO SOS Homophobia reported 1,318 homophobic acts in 2015, a 40 percent decrease from 2014. It reported 152 instances of physical assault, a 6 percent decrease from 2014.
On October 12, the parliament adopted a legal gender recognition procedure that removed requirements for individuals to undergo sterilization and provide proof of medical treatment in order to confirm their gender recognition. Human rights organizations welcomed this development but criticized the government for still requiring individuals to undergo a judicial process to change the legal documentation of their gender.