- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2016

A slew of French ministers said the nation’s political class is filled with sexual harassment and perverted public figures.

The newspaper Journal de Dimanche published a column Sunday that was signed by 17 former and current ministers. Women who signed the document attested to a culture where sexual harassment seems to be commonplace rather than a statistical outlier.

“It’s not just verbal,” Rama Yade, one of the signatories and a former secretary of state for foreign affairs and human rights, told the newspaper, the Washington Post reported Monday. “There are those who fondle you, who put two hands around your waist and squeeze.”

The report comes just days after The Associated Press covered the case of Finance Minister Michel Sapin, who was accused of grabbing a journalist’s underwear at the World Economic Forum in 2015. Mr. Sapin’s office issued an apology May 11, but said he only touched the reporter’s back.

Green Party representative Denis Baupin also resigned as deputy speaker of parliament May 9 after he was accused of assaulting women for 15 years.

“I left the room and in the corridor outside, Denis Baupin came over, pushed me against the wall by my chest and tried to kiss me,” Sandrine Rousseau, a former spokeswoman for the Green Party, told Mediapart of one incident, The Post reported. “I pushed him away violently.”

Elen Debost, the former deputy mayor of Le Mans, also said Mr. Baupin sent her hundreds of unwanted phone and text messages.

Mr. Baupin denies the allegations.

Some of the other claims found in Journal de Dimanche piece include testimony from deputy ministers Delphine Batho and Aurelie Filippetti regarding 2007 debates on their physical appearance.

Marisol Touraine, the minister of health and social affairs, said she was asked at the National Assembly: “Do you know the difference between a minute of anal sex and a minute of oral sex?” Another man then asked, “Do you have two minutes?”

Other comments lobbed at female ministers allegedly include “What is she, apart from her magnificent breasts?” and “Are you wearing a thong?” The Post reported.

France’s political class has been under increased scrutiny since former finance minister and International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sex crimes in 2011. Mr. Strauss-Kahn eventually reached a settlement with a New York City maid who claimed he forced himself upon her — and U.S. prosecutors dropped criminal charges against him — but the fallout from the fiasco went on for years in Europe.

A French court acquitted Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sex crimes in June 2015, but his name is now linked with orgies and the solicitation of prostitution.

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