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French press review 31 January 2014

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There’s a storm coming, a threat to the very core of society some might say, and the French press today is sounding the alarm. For a second consecutive day, so-called “gender theory” is making the headlines in the main national newspapers.


“Gender 'theory'. War in schools”, headlines the left-wing newspaper Libération. The French far right is spreading crazy rumours, explains the newspaper, about the teaching of this pseudo-theory in primary schools. Taken up by right-wing UMP MPs, these unfounded rumours have led to calls for a boycott of primary classes by concerned parent groups.

Last week thousands of parents in France received a text message urging them to keep their children away from school on Monday because, it claimed, they would be taught “gender theory” implying that “they are not born as boys or girls but can choose to become one or the other”.

One campaign asked parents to go further by taking their kids out of school one day every month with no prior warning to teachers.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon on Wednesday attempted to reassure parents, saying that the only change in the educational programme will be to promote equality and mutual respect between boys and girls, explains Liberation.

The ABCD of Equality programme was introduced in some 600 primary school classes this past fall, explains the paper, and some French conservatives are outraged that it teaches tolerance of same-sex couples and pushes them to rethink boy-girl stereotypes.

But Peillon’s explanations are just not going to cut it, says Le Figaro, as it headlines with “Government, trapped by gender theory”. Regardless of the minister’s denial, many parents wonder how the questions of gender and sexuality with be dealt with in primary schools.

According to the right-wing newspaper, parents are worried and confused by the concept of gender – or this “sly ideology advocating undifferentiated genders stealthily enforced by gay lobbies”, as Le Figaro puts it.

Worried parents are already attending “anti-gender” conferences, says Le Figaro. Contrary to Le Figaro and Libération, Communist newspaper l’Humanité stays clear of that debate today, only to tackle another controversial ongoing social topic: abortion.

“Abortion: a European battle,” headlines l’Huma, explaining how many European countries such as Spain, Ireland, Italy and Poland are still ignoring or questioning the right of women to do what they want with their own bodies. Big protests are planned for next Saturday in France and throughout Europe, says the paper.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

A huge rally is expected in Madrid, where the right-wing government is backpedalling on abortion laws, says the paper, and planning a reform that would restrict access to deliberate termination of a pregnancy: a right that was acquired four years ago in Spain.

The paper takes a look at regressive abortion laws across Europe, explaining how Malta and Ireland forbid abortion, while on 9 February Switzerland is to decide by referendum whether the government will stop reimbursing the medical procedure or not.