A French member of parliament has quit as vice-president of the National Assembly after accusations of sexual harassment. The move could represent a nascent shift in how France deals with such things.
Denis Baupin - the husband of Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse - came under pressure to resign Monday morning after four female officials of the Green party (EELV) and members of parliament (MPs) went on the record Monday in the French media.
A culture of apparent impunity for unwanted sexual advances has a place in French culture and society, with a legal culture that tends to err on the side of protecting privacy and a society seemingly prepared to turn a blind eye. This may be changing, however, in particular after the trial of former presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn for sexual harrassment.
Parliamentary speaker Claude Bartolone reportedly summoned Baupin early Monday and "asked him to resign as deputy speaker," the National Assembly said in a statement.
In a statement published on his website, Baupin, who is one of six deputy speakers of parliament, rejected the accusations - some of which date back more than 15 years. He added that he had resigned "to protect the reputation of parliament and to defend himself."
"Following the accusations in the media, Mr. Denis Baupin wants to underline ... that these are defamatory and baseless lies," the statement reads.
Baupin plans to sue the four women for defamation, his lawyer said.
'Almost daily harassment'
"One day in October 2011 he pressed me against the wall, holding my breasts and tried to kiss me," Sandrine Rousseau, a Green party spokeswoman, told France Inter radio and Mediapart online media, which first revealed the case.
Baupin recently resigned from the Greens over disagreements about strategy.
"I immediately thought that it was absolutely not normal that this should happen to me. But I thought of it as sexual aggression much later," she said.
The encounter made Rousseau, who was vice president of a regional council in northern France, "very uneasy," she said.
Another claimant - MP Isabelle Attard - said it was "an almost daily harassment with provocative, salacious text messages."
Two other Green party members, Elen Debost, who is also deputy mayor of Le Mans, and Annie Lahmer, who is a member of the Paris regional government, also accused Baupin of sexual harassment.
jbh/kms (Reuters, AFP)