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. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.
The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies from three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($54,000) to 20 years in prison.
In November the government’s Interministerial Agency for the Protection of Women against Violence and Combatting Human Trafficking (MIPROF) published data showing that, between 2012 and 2017, an annual average of 225,000 women between the ages of 18 and 75 declared that they had been victims of physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or former partner. MIPROF reported that, over the same period, an annual average of 93,000 women declared that they had been victims of rape or attempted rape.
The report noted that 123 women were killed by their male partner or former partner in 2016.
The government sponsored and funded programs for 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 125 million euros ($150 million) to fund its 2017-19 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, a 50-percent increase over the previous three-year plan. The program’s three main objectives were ensuring women’s access to rights, strengthening public action to protect the most vulnerable groups, such as children, young women, and women living in rural regions, and uprooting the culture of sexism.
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 20 years in prison. The government provides reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C victims.
According to the Ministry of Gender Equality, 53,000 victims resided in the country. The majority were recent immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries where the procedure was performed. According to the Group against Sexual Mutilation, 350 excisions were performed in the country each year. In a November 2016 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, the government introduced new measures to prevent genital mutilation and support affected women and girls.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based harassment in the workplace. 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.”
A November report by MIPROF reported that the security forces registered 10,870 incidents of harassment and other threats committed by a partner in 2016, with female victims making up more than 88 percent of the total victims. The same report stated that in 2016 the Ministry of Justice sentenced 82 men for sexual harassment.
On August 9, parliament passed an ethics bill directed at parliamentarians and other elected officials, which included a measure that bars persons with a conviction for sexual harassment from running for public office.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
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 of Gender Equality 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. 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 ($54,000) 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.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consent is 15 but prosecutors still have to prove sex was non-consensual to prove rape. Otherwise, sex with a minor is considered sex abuse, punishable with up to five years in prison as opposed to up to 20 years in the case of rape. The government generally enforced these laws effectively.
The law also criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The minimum penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million). The law prohibits child pornography; the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a 75,000-euro ($90,000) fine.
According to a November report by MIPROF, the security forces registered 7,570 acts of sexual violence against children under age 18 in 2016. Female victims made up more than 80 percent of this total.
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/en/legal/compliance.html.
There were between 460,000 and 700,000 Jews in France in 2016, depending on the definitional criteria of who is Jewish, according to a 2016 report by Berman Jewish DataBank.
NGO and government observers reported numerous anti-Semitic incidents during the year, including physical and verbal assaults on individuals and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials. As of January 2016, according to the Ministry of the Interior, security forces were protecting 12,000 sites across the country, of which 26 percent were Jewish.
On December 10 at a Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF) convention in Paris, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the number of anti-Semitic acts in the country had dropped by 20 percent in the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2016, according to Israeli media. He stated there were 216 anti-Semitic incidents during this period. According to press reports, anti-Semitism was causing a growing number of Jews to abandon their suburban homes for downtown Paris.
On April 4, a 27-year-old Franco-Malian man, Kobili Traore, killed his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi. Neighbors heard Traore beating Halimi while reciting the Quran and shouting “Allah hu akbar” (“God is greatest”) and calling her Satan before throwing her from the third-story window of her apartment. On July 10, authorities arrested Traore and charged him for “voluntary homicide” and “sequestration.” The umbrella group of French Jewish communities, CRIF, and the NGO National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) criticized the prosecutor’s delay in filing an indictment and omission of the anti-Semitic motive behind it. On September 27, authorities added the charge of anti-Semitism to the indictment. The investigation continued at year’s end.
On September 7, three attackers forcibly entered the home of a Jewish family in Livry-Gargan, a suburb of Paris. They confined, beat, and threatened to kill the family of three, according to the BNVCA. Minister of the Interior Collomb said, “everything will be done to identify and arrest those who carried out this cowardly attack (which) appears directly linked to the victims’ religion.” On November 28, authorities arrested five individuals–four men and one woman–in connection with the attack. On December 1, authorities charged them with armed robbery, illegal detention, and extortion with violence, motivated by the victims’ religious affiliation. All five individuals were placed in pretrial detention. The case remained open at year’s end.
On September 18, a juvenile court in northeastern France ordered five teenagers, ages 15 to 17, who vandalized approximately 300 gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union in 2015, to perform 140 hours of community service each; the court, however, suspended an earlier decision to sentence the teenagers to prison to up to seven years.
Jewish community leaders objected to Front National Party politician Marine Le Pen’s statement on April 9 that the country was not responsible for the 1942 roundup and detention of 13,152 Jews at the Velodrome d’hiver stadium in Paris. At a Velodrome d’hiver roundup memorial event on July 16, President Macron reaffirmed the French government’s position that “it was indeed France that organized the roundup, the deportation, and thus, for almost all, death.”
In June authorities upheld the charge of anti-Semitism in the indictment against five assailants for an attack committed in December 2014 against a 21-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend in Creteil. One of the five attackers faced the charge of rape of the woman while another faced the charge of complicity in the rape; all five aggressors faced charges of theft or attempted theft, extortion, and false imprisonment with a weapon; or complicity.
On August 7, unknown persons vandalized a memorial in Lyon dedicated to 44 children and their seven adult supervisors who were arrested by the Lyon Gestapo in 1944 at the Children’s Home of Izieu and deported to concentration camps, where all but one adult died. The memorial was broken and removed from its base.
Former president Hollande, President Macron, and other government leaders condemned anti-Semitism during the year. On July 16, President Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a ceremony in Paris honoring the victims of the Velodrome d’hiver roundup. President Macron stated, “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”
On October 2, Prime Minister Philippe announced a new initiative to combat online anti-Semitism during an address at Paris’ Buffault Synagogue to mark the Jewish New Year. He also confirmed the continuation of high-level security at Jewish community institutions.
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. 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 parliament ratified decrees that extend the deadline for owners to make their buildings and facilities accessible by three to nine years. In May 2016 then president Hollande announced that 500,000 public buildings across the country were undergoing major renovation work to improve accessibility.
On January 19, a Bayonne criminal court fined easyJet Airline 60,000 euros ($72,000) for refusing to board a passenger with a disability. The airline denied boarding to the 55-year-old plaintiff, Joseph Etcheveste, in 2010, citing “security” reasons.
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, the Defender of Rights in 2016 received 5,203 discrimination claims, 18 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin.
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 64 incidents and 118 threats against the Muslim community in 2016, representing a 48.4- and a 61.3-percent decrease, respectively, in the number of anti-Muslim incidents and threats from 2015.
According to media reports, in June the city of Lorette prohibited women wearing veils from accessing the city’s municipal swimming pool by adding “headscarves” to the pool’s list of prohibited items. The rules require a woman to wear a one-piece or two-piece bathing suit to access the pool.
In an April 25 ruling, the Paris Criminal Court fined the mayor of Beziers, Robert Menard, 2,000 euros ($2,400) for inciting hatred and discrimination through anti-Muslim comments. In September 2016 he had tweeted his “regret” at witnessing “the great replacement,” an allusion to a term used by xenophobic writer Renaud Camus to describe the country being “overtaken” by foreign-born Muslims. Menard was also prosecuted for an interview given in September 2016 in which he claimed the number of Muslim children in Beziers was “a problem.” The mayor was ordered to pay symbolic damages, of 1 to 1,000 euros ($1.20 to $1,200) to the seven antiracism organizations that had originally filed the suit against him.
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.). Government data estimated there were 20,000 Roma 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 4,382 Roma in 50 different localities. According to the ERRC and Human Rights League data, authorities evicted 10,119 Roma from 76 illegal camps in 2016, a 9-percent decrease from 2015, when 11,128 Roma were evicted.
On February 7, the country’s highest court upheld the conviction of Luc Jousse, the former mayor of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, for his anti-Roma statements in 2013. Jousse was fined 10,000 euros ($12,000) and disqualified from running for public office for one year.
On February 27, the Aix-en-Provence appeals found guilty and ordered Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front Party, to pay a 5,000-euro ($6,000) fine for inciting hatred against the Romani community in Nice. At a news conference in 2013, Le Pen described members of the Romani community as “irritating” and “smelly.”
In a report released September 12, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights criticized the country for continuing to “exclude disabled children, Roma(ni) children and migrants or refugees from mainstream schools.” The commissioner noted that inequality in the education system “perpetuates their marginalization.”
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.
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 Homophobie, a NGO supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights, reported 1,575 homophobic acts in 2016, a 19.5-percent increase from 2015. It reported 121 instances of physical assault, a 20-percent decrease from 2015.
On March 11, authorities arrested and indicted two men in Marseille for kidnapping and raping Zak Ostmane, an Algerian LGBTI activist and refugee. SOS Homophobie reported the two assailants drugged the victim in a gay bar in central Marseille, then took him to a hotel room where he was beaten and raped. Police rescued Ostmane two days later. The Marseille prosecutor’s office did not release the identities of the assailants.
Human rights organizations criticized the government for continuing to require transgender persons to go to court to change their gender legally.