News Agencies – November 25, 2010
French women were called on to perform the “militant act” of wearing a skirt to protest violence against women. At least 135,000 women are taking part in the protest, according to its Facebook page, organised by rights group Neither Whores Nor Submissives (NPNS) as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“Wearing a skirt is a militant act, in daily life, at the workplace, in the street, at home, because today everywhere is a place of danger for women,” said Sihem Habchi, who heads the NPNS. NPNS mainly defends the rights of women in France’s occasionally tense suburbs, where “the skirt is definitely a symbol of resistance,” said Habchi. It can be difficult for young women to wear skirts in some suburbs because of male jibes and occasional attacks which make the garment a symbol of standing up for women’s rights, NPNS says.
Statistics show that in 2009, 654,000 Frenchwomen said they were victims of physical or sexual violence, a 15-percent increase since 2007, Habchi said.
Journal du Dimanche – October 26, 2010
NPNS has launched its “Ambassadors of French Secularism and Equality” operation, designed to mobilize anti-burqa-law movements in the housing projects outside of Paris. The group is collaborating with Eric Besson, minister of immigration.
A debate organized by Ni Putes Ni Soumises (NPNS, Neither Whores Nor Submissives) on the full-face veil in France in Montreuil was intervened by police. Approximately 100 people gathered in a primary school, later interrupted by members of the pro-Palestinian association, Cheikh Yassine. As the debate became heated, several attendees became involved in a physical fight. Police arrived to interrupt proceedings.
Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas and niqabs in the Republic, part of France’s effort to integrate its growing Muslim population while preserving its heritage and secular roots.
The panel, chaired by Communist Party lawmaker André Gédron, will hold months of hearings before issuing a report, likely by January 2010. It has no power to draft laws but could recommend legislation restricting or banning women from wearing head-to-toe Islamic robes that mask facial features in public.
The panel was announced in June 2009. Habchi heads Ni Putes, Ni Soumises — Neither Whores, Nor Submissives — an outspoken group fighting to improve the lot of Muslim women and girls in suburban areas. The group’s founder Fadela Amara, now the government’s urban affairs minister, supports a ban on full-body veils. The parliamentary panel is also to hear from supporters of the veils, though the list of witnesses has not yet been completed, the panel said.
In her new book Femmes invisibles, leurs mots contre la violence (Invisible Women, Their Words Against Violence, Calmann-Lévy 2008) sociologist Smaïn Laacher (CNRS – EHESS) claims that the community association Neither Whores Nor SUbmissives (Ni Putes Ni Soumises) has had problems representing Muslim girls in the suburbs of France because it was so popular amongst young women in its beginnings and the expectations were too high. The organization never had the infrastructure to be able to properly respond to the demand. In addition, its press releases and communication were direct and addressed major issues like secularism, Islam, immigration and the Israeli-Palestian conflict. According to Laacher, the media therefore exaggerated the importance and power of the organization, so that many of its members were disappointed by its actual power.
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The Secretary of State for Urban Policies (UMP), Fad_la Amara, also former president of Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (“Neither Whores, Nor Submissives“), in an interview published in the Algerian Daily Newspaper Al-Akhbar, declared herself as a “practicing Muslim“ and “secular in politics“.