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France parliament debates gender equality bill

The French parliament on Monday began debating new far-reaching legislation that would, if passed, impact elements of gender equality, including abortion rights and wage equality. The bill for equality between women and men [text, in French] was prompted by statistics which showed that, among other things, French women earn 25% less [Guardian report] than their male co-workers and that only one of every seven of the 36,500 mayors in France are female. The new law would also eliminate the current requirement [Telegraph report] that women prove they are in "distress" before they may legally terminate a pregnancy. Proponents of the law have stated that the "distress" requirement is obsolete, while opponents say that the new law will trivialize abortion. The French Senate [official website] passed the gender equality law last September, and it will now be put to a vote by the National Assembly [official website, in French] after debates have concluded.

The government of France has taken various measures in recent years, in a stated attempt to increase gender equality in the country. In October 2012, the National Assembly approved a bill [JURIST report] to reimburse women for all abortions and make contraceptives available for free to minors from age 15 to 18. In May of 2011, the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] launched [JURIST report] the first international convention to combat violence against women [text], to which France is a signatory. The treaty was formed in response to a statistic that at least 15 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence and targets crimes including rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, forced abortion and forced sterilization. A burqa ban in France also officially took effect [JURIST report] on April 11, 2011 after the National Assembly approved [JURIST report] the bill on July 13, 2010. Proponents of the ban have argued that it promotes a measure of gender equality.

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