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How France will strengthen the fight against discrimination

In France, the "platform against discrimination" – a new initiative of President Emmanuel Macron-has started its work.

Macron himself announced the launch of a platform to combat discrimination. This happened in December against the background of the scandal with the police beating of a black producer Michael Zickler.

"Today, if you are not white, you are checked much more often, and this is unbearable," the French president said, prompting sharp criticism from police unions, who said that " the police are not racist and do not choose their offenders."

500 lawyers

"Discrimination in any form is humiliation, is violence. The existence of discrimination reminds us that the Republic has never been completed, " Emmanuel Macron said, calling the new platform "a concrete tool to put an end to injustice."

From now on, anyone who believes they have been a victim of discrimination of any kind can go to the antidiscrimination website.fr or call the hotline.

When filling out the form on the website, you are asked to choose the" industry " of discrimination: private property and services; education; work in the public sector; work in the private sector; housing; public services.

There are more than twenty criteria that can be used to discriminate.

Among them: trade union activity; age; appearance; genetic characteristics; religious beliefs; banking operations; health status; pregnancy; disability; gender identity; place of residence; morals; nationality; political views; sexual orientation; origin, race or ethnicity; FULL name; loss of autonomy; gender; marital status; economic vulnerability.

In the first half-day, the platform received more than 200 messages. By comparison, the commissioner's office previously received about 5,500 complaints of discrimination a year, which is, of course, incredibly small for France's 67 million people.

The new platform is managed by the service of the Commissioner for Human Rights (who is appointed to this post by the president, but who, formally, does not report to him).

"Our lawyers, who are 500 people specially trained to deal with issues related to discrimination, will be able to listen, answer questions, and offer solutions," said the Commissioner for Human Rights, Claire Edon.

The office of the ministry clarified that the lawyers will refer the person either to the "competent authorities" (police, prosecutor's office), or to one of the non-governmental human rights organizations, or they themselves will begin a procedure that will end in mediation or legal prosecution.

At the same time, many media outlets noted that the launch of the platform occurred simultaneously with the adoption on February 16 in the first reading in the National Assembly of the law on "strengthening republican principles" (which representatives of the left parties called "anti-Muslim", and the right and far-right, on the contrary, are not tough enough).

Types of discrimination

The office of the Commissioner reports that most often (47%) the French are discriminated against at work.

The main types of discrimination: on the basis of origin (including race and nationality) - 24.5%, due to disability-22.7%, on the basis of gender-12.7% (it is emphasized that women suffer in the vast majority of cases)... Age discrimination is quite common — 5.7%, and even discrimination due to trade union activity — 5%.

Almost half of the "trade unionists" said that at least once in their lives they were victims of this phenomenon. However, this is still not a subject of national discussion, unlike the racial problem.

In June 2020, the previous Commissioner for Human Rights, Jacques Toubon, released a report entitled "Discrimination on the basis of origin: the need for urgent action".

The publication of the report took place against the backdrop of a health crisis that has lasted for several months, which "only worsened the stereotypes about residents of poor neighborhoods, often presented in the public consciousness as "undisciplined carriers of the virus", poorly observing social distance and quarantine rules," the newspaper Le Monde noted in connection with the report.

Both foreigners and descendants of foreigners are discriminated against on the basis of their origin, which is 21% of the French population.

The problem is systemic, said Jacques Toubon. "Discrimination is not the result of the individual logic of some human resources employees who refuse to hire black people or people of Arab descent. Our entire system that reproduces inequality is in question, " the commissioner said.

Another body — the National Advisory Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) - in its annual report (also in June 2020) cited the results of a survey on what stereotypes exist in France on "national grounds".

45% of respondents said that “Islam is a threat to French identity”, 37% believe that “immigration is the main cause of insecurity” in the country, 59% are convinced that “many migrants come to France only to take advantage of the social protection system”, 60% said that “Roma very often use children”; 34% believe that “Jews have a special relationship with money”.

Critics of the project remind us that this is not the first initiative of this kind. For example, in 2017, a government platform was launched under the auspices of the Interdepartmental Delegation to Combat Racism, Anti-Semitism and Hatred of LGBT people, and “it turned out to be a failure,” Ghislain Vedo, head of the Representative Council of Black Associations of France (CRAN), said in an interview with France Inter.

The new anti-discrimination platform.fr is based on the active participation of human rights associations that know the problem, and this can increase its effectiveness, Vedo hopes.

However, the problem is not only in the operational capabilities of the platform itself but also in the fact that even in the case of contacting its specialists, the victim does not have much chance that discrimination can be proved legally.

After all, racism and xenophobia often manifest themselves in a veiled, subtle way, Jacques Toubon noted in the report, specifying that

Only 12% of those who were discriminated against at work because of their background went to court.

And finally, many media outlets noted that the launch of the platform occurred simultaneously with the adoption of the law on “strengthening republican principles” in the National Assembly on February 16, which representatives of left-wing parties called anti-Muslim.

The government does not agree with such accusations, specifying that the law does not fight any religion, but is primarily aimed at combating Islamism.

The launch of the platform was an opportunity for the authorities to prove these words in practice.

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