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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’inclusion contre l’exclusion

by Paule Masson

Inclusion vs. Exclusion

Translated Monday 10 March 2014, by Kathryn Stedman

In the editorial of this Friday’s L’Humanité, Paule Masson asserts: “France, champion of the rights of men (and women, suggested Olympe de Gouge in 1791), must not slide back into the trappings of a patriarchal society.”

“If abortion is a crime, then masturbation is a genocide!” So is the sardonic response from pro-abortion groups to anti-abortion reactionaries. Forty years after the Veil Act, which officially recognised the fundamental right of a woman to have an abortion, this right is once again in danger: either directly, by laws attempting to retract it (as in Spain); more discretely, by the closure of abortion clinics (as in France); or indeed, through discussions propounding the exclusion of abortion under social security (as in Switzerland), or as suggested by Marine Le Pen during the presidential campaign.

Anti-abortionist lobbies are not a recent phenomenon. But their voice had long been lost in the confusion of their message. The women’s liberation movement, although slow and erratic, was moving forward. Today it is in danger, under constant threat from a Right, which, in its mutation into a moralistic alliance, has betrayed its republican values. Yesterday again, François Fillon, borrowing the words of Jean-François Copé, urged the State “not to interfere in the private life” of the individual. In sanctioning the enmity of the extremists, the UMP erases the hard-fought legislative progress achieved in the sphere of women’s rights during the 1970s. Any challenge to the right of abortion suggests in itself a desire to relegate women to their former “primitive” role in society. Will tomorrow’s law question our right to contraception? Likewise, might we consider, in the name of respect of individual privacy, that a man can recklessly beat his wife without consequence?

The history of humanity was constructed on a presupposed hierarchy in which women are inferior to men. Cultural traditions, religious dogma and political structures have slowly, over thousands of years, deprived women of a voice. Bigots have a hard life. But we must look to the future. We can never stress enough that each step forward in women’s rights is a step forward for our society as a whole. France, champion of the rights of men (and women, suggested Olympe de Gouge in 1791), must not slide back into the trappings of a patriarchal society. Furthermore, in today’s climate of economic turmoil, fighting for women’s rights is a powerful counterforce, which compels people to choose inclusion over exclusion. This fight bolsters the ongoing struggle against social degradation, which makes scapegoats out of the most vulnerable groups in society: foreigners, young people, gays, gypsies, the handicapped and women.

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