France pledges ‘zero tolerance’ as it excludes students from top military academy for sexual harassment
France’s defence minister has promised to exclude male students at its top military academy who female colleagues have accused of sexual harassment and “extreme misogyny”.
Florence Parly pledged ”zero tolerance" following allegations that a group of up to 60 male students forced out young women attending a preparatory school for the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr.
“There is no place for sexism in our armed forces," the French defence minister told parliament.
Founded by Napoleon in 1802, the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr is the French equivalent of Britain’s Sandhurst and America’s West Point. It only admitted women for the first time in 1986.
Ms Parly said that some students would be excluded and prevented from staying at the academy to resit courses. Some staff allegedly involved faced being replaced after upcoming exams and other “disciplinary measures” would follow, she said.
Her announcement came a month after Libération, the French daily newspaper, published allegations of daily intimidation of females, who endured having their doors were kicked in at night to prevent them sleeping, defecation in front of their dormitories, threats of physical harm and internet postings avowing “death to the fat”.
It quoted a letter sent to President Emmanuel Macron by a female student denouncing the presence of fraternities of ultra-nationalist young men known as "tradis", or traditionalists.
She said that around 60 male recruits out of the 230 at the centre were "willing to do anything" to force her and other female students to drop out.
"I’m ashamed for having wanted to join an army that isn’t ready to receive women. I’ve learnt that having a vagina ruins a career, a vocation, a life," she wrote.
The report also quoted a number of former female students who said that the alleged persecution eventually led them to leave their military training, while homophobic and extreme right-wing behaviour was widespread.
However, Libération said that the punishments failed to tackle the problem at root as only two students faced a potential period of exclusion, one of whom had reportedly dropped out of the school to avoid any damage to his military record.
Ms Parly insisted that she would launch a “battle plan against discrimination to re-gild our military lycees”.
France, like many other countries, has been locked in heated debate in recent months over endemic sexism and harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
It has passed a number of measures against sexual violence and harassment of late, including making wolf-whistles or lecherous behaviour punishable by a fine of up to €750 (£655) under a new law against “sexual or sexist affront” aimed at France’s macho culture.
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