#MeToo politics, is relying on justice enough?
There are those, like Éric Dupond-Moretti, for whom the matter is understood: in the political world as elsewhere, in the event of denunciation of sexual or gender-based violence, justice must be the only recourse. “There is no code of ethics put in place by this or that party. There is justice and there is a Penal Code”had explained the Keeper of the Seals, at the end of September, reacting to the different situations gathered under the term “#MeToo politics”.
Opposite, there are those and especially those, feminists in mind, who believe that, precisely, justice is not at the rendezvous in these cases. “Justice is not enough”, considers Laurence Rossignol, the vice-president of the Senate, former socialist minister for women’s rights. However, she insists, the fight against this violence must not turn into “Political clay pigeon shooting. The issue is not the hunting board « . In other words, in those spheres of power where the risk of instrumentalization is real, clear rules are needed.
But really, what are we talking about? While the #MeToo movement celebrates its 5th anniversary on October 15, several « affairs » have tainted the political world in recent weeks, leaving an impression of great confusion, « Abad affair », « Quatennens affair », « Bayou affair »… And here are gathered under the same hashtag denunciations of very different order, not having the same implications.
On the one hand, a minister, Damien Abad – accused of rape last spring, following two complaints dismissed by the courts in 2012 and 2017 – first remains in office, then is not renewed in the government Terminal II. On the other, a pillar of La France insoumise, Adrien Quatennens – the subject of two handrails then a complaint, he recognizes violence against his companion, including a slap -, leaves his post as coordinator of LFI , but remains a deputy. As for Julien Bayou, neither complaint nor « criminally reprehensible facts ». But an accusation on a television set by an elected member of her party, Sandrine Rousseau, of psychological violence on her ex-companion. He resigns from the head of Europe Ecology-The Greens, but remains a deputy.
In these very diverse situations, what should be the place of justice? Is relying on it enough? When there is a complaint, of course, that is his role. Problem: the judiciary suffers from a cruel lack of personnel, which terribly lengthens the time of investigation and judgment… « In an ideal world, if justice were able to act within a reasonable time, three to four months, we could consider that its intervention is enough, observes Judge Lara Danguy des Déserts, a member of the Syndicat de la magistrature. Except that is far from the case. It takes years to be judged, because justice does not have the means to function properly. »
Added to these obstacles is the difficulty of apprehending certain abuses of power. Laurence Rossignol gives an example: “An elected official who uses his position to grant a right or a subsidy to a woman in exchange for a sexual favour… How to prove it? Remember that in judicial matters, doubt benefits the accused, which, in these contexts, is very unfavorable to the victim, because it is word against word. »
Finally, some behaviors are not necessarily reprehensible in the legal sense. “Nevertheless, continues the former socialist minister, the parties may consider that such actions are not compatible with the message conveyed. There must be consistency between the political project and the practices. » This is also the point of view of Mathilde Viot, co-founder of the Observatory of sexist and sexual violence in politics, an association at the origin of the accusations concerning Damien Abad. For the latter, the rebellious Adrien Quatennens, who admitted having slapped his ex-companion, cannot continue to occupy his mandate as a deputy. Others cry out to the People’s Court.
« A party is completely free to invest and divest a candidate, to ask a member to withdraw »nevertheless recalls Laurence Rossignol, while demanding clear measures to avoid arbitrariness – especially when handling, as in the Bayou affair, the delicate notion of “psychological violence”. « The sanction cannot arise from the sum of the emotions and indignation of the moment »insists the senator, pleading for party ethics « based on the principles of adversarial, independence and collegiality ».
Lucid about the limits of the internal cells, she believes, like Mathilde Viot, that the investigation should be carried out by associations or specialist lawyers having no connection with the party concerned. Otherwise, the risk of conflict of interest would be far too great and a shadow would hang over the conclusions anyway. Not enough to reassure the Keeper of the Seals. « I’m tired of this stuff », said Éric Dupond-Moretti at the end of September. He then recalled the importance of « the voice of the victims », but also of » the presumption of innocence « and a “a number of great principles that our civilized society has taken millennia to develop”.