France’s Gender Equality Minister announces help for abuse victims during Coronavirus lockdown

France’s Gender Equality Minister announces help for abuse victims during Coronavirus lockdown

FRENCH authorities have intervened after reports of domestic abuse have jumped 36 per cent in Paris and 32 per cent elsewhere in France after the coronavirus lockdown restrictions came into force.

This Monday the government also announced an extra one million euros in funding for anti-domestic abuse organisations to help them respond to increased demand for services.

France began a nationwide lockdown on March 17 which will remain until at least April 15. No one is allowed to leave their home except to buy food or medication, visit a doctor, exercise, or walk a pet.

Activists stressed concern that the quarantine measures would lead to a surge in domestic violence and make it harder for victims to seek help.

Gender Equality Minister, Marlene Schiappa previously warned that the lockdown would create a “breeding ground for violence.” However, she also said that to counteract this, France would pay for up to 20,000 hotel nights so victims can escape abusive partners.

There will also be around 20 pop in centres set up around the country to act as drop-in points for women who feel under threat.

“My biggest concern is to multiply the points of contact with women. As it’s difficult for women to get out, we want to make sure that support systems can go to women,” said Schiappa.

The first drop-in points will open in shopping centres owned by commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW).

“Supermarkets are among the few stores still open today. We thought it would be good if victims of domestic violence, or people who know a victim, could meet associations near these places,” URW spokesman Pierre Hausswalt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

France introduced a separate initiative last week to encourage women to report domestic abuse in pharmacies which follows a similar idea to one in Spain where women can go to their pharmacy and request a ‘Mask 19’ – a code word that will alert the pharmacist to contact the authorities.

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Damon Mitchell

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