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French Ex-ministers Take On Sexual Misconduct in Politics

  • Lou Lorscheider

A French official leaves a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 10, 2016. "We will no longer keep quiet," seventeen female former French government ministers wrote in an op-ed condemning sexual misconduct in politics.

A French official leaves a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 10, 2016. "We will no longer keep quiet," seventeen female former French government ministers wrote in an op-ed condemning sexual misconduct in politics.

Seventeen female former French government ministers, including current International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, said they will no longer remain silent about sexual harassment in French politics.

Writing Sunday in the French weekly Journal du Dimanche, the women vowed to publicize "all sexist remarks," as well as "inappropriate gestures and behavior" from contemporaries in the halls of French political power.

Sunday's op-ed was published just days after nine women complained of alleged sexual harassment by Denis Baupin, the deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Baupin, who resigned his post, has denied the allegations and has promised to fight them.

Former Justice Ministry official Monique Pelletier, 89, was among the 17 signatories. She recently revealed that she had been sexually assaulted by an unnamed senator in 1979, and said she was ashamed of her own silence.

FILE - Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is surrounded by photographers as he leaves for court for his trial on sex offense charges, including the alleged procurement of prostitutes, in Lille, France, Feb. 17, 2015.

FILE - Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is surrounded by photographers as he leaves for court for his trial on sex offense charges, including the alleged procurement of prostitutes, in Lille, France, Feb. 17, 2015.

"We will no longer keep quiet," the women wrote. "We encourage all victims of sexual aggression to speak out and complain.

"We went into politics for different reasons and we defend different ideas, but we share the belief that sexism has no place in our society," they said.

Sexual misconduct in French politics was highlighted in 2011, when international news outlets described the New York City arrest of then IMF chief and French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of attempted rape and assault of a hotel worker.

Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF following his arrest, and returned to France after U.S. charges in that case were dropped. He later apologized for his actions and withdrew his name from presidential consideration, while insisting his encounter with the maid was consensual.

In a separate case that year, a French writer threatened and then dropped a civil case against Strauss-Kahn after French prosecutors dropped rape charges against him.

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