Nelly Garnier is living proof that you can be elected LR… and share many points of view with feminist Alice Coffin! At a time when revelations about sexual violence are being used as weapons of political destabilization, the elected LR believes in a cross-partisan approach to these issues which have saturated political debate for several weeks.

Long committed to women’s rights issues, Nelly Garnier is a voice that matters to the Council of Paris and in the executive of Valérie Pécresse. She is also the director of the new crises observatory of the Havas group. A position that clashes in a political family that has only invested 36% of women in the legislative elections… while most political organizations are all or almost all approaching true parity. Interview.

Le Point: We are witnessing an accumulation of cases of a sexual nature in politics… You are a politician, have you seen a culture conducive to sexual or sexist harassment in the political world?

Nelly Garnier: Yes, I have noticed it and I have been denouncing it for several years. Since the first wave of MeToo in 2017, more and more cases of blatant attacks have been revealed. Thus, from the start of Anne Hidalgo’s new term of office in 2020, three men were the subject of charges, because the victims could not bear to see them retain a status of power which they could abuse. In an environment where a lot of power is conferred on men, some use it to try to obtain sexual favors or have a relationship of ascendancy over women around them, whether they are elected officials, collaborators, journalists, administrators or, as we have seen recently, consultants in a lobbying firm.

Have you personally witnessed many of these drifts?

As for very serious cases, which come under criminal law, I was not directly concerned. But the testimonies of inappropriate behavior, sexist remarks, denigration and humiliation of certain women, every woman has experienced this kind of situation on multiple occasions. I have always considered this myth of the seductive politician, who seduces women as he seduces voters, to be problematic, because it blurs the lines between the seducer and the sexual predator. He is also systematically opposed to victims who testify.

One has the feeling that all political families are aware of very questionable behavior within their ranks, but that they only react when the facts are brought to the attention of the general public. Why ?

In all environments where there is a concentration of power, there are men who use this power to coerce women. This phenomenon is apolitical and, in the political world, it concerns all parties. This is why women politicians are fighting in a cross-partisan way against this violence. Afterwards, you have to understand that, if there is no self-regulation on the part of the parties, it is because the political world is by nature very competitive… As soon as a case comes out, the political leaders see it first through the prism of the destabilization it will cause.

Destabilization which is also real…

Yes of course. There is always a reflex of self-protection of the group and not a reflex of protection of the potential victim who dares to speak. And so, ultimately, the parties act each time only under the threat of the media or under the threat of a revelation. If environmentalists have taken up the problem, it is because they were the first to be affected with the Baupin affair. The Republic on the move was also very concerned during the last five-year term, but the choice not to dismiss the men in question blocked any other action. And at Nupes, which has nevertheless rallied all the ecofeminists, Taha Bouhafs is only dismissed when it is known that the affair will come out in the media.

When a victim witnesses the public promotion of a person who assaulted her, it is unbearable for her. In all cases of sexual violence, we see that it is at this point that one or two victims say to themselves that they can no longer be silent, because other people may be victims or they judge unacceptable to continue to promote someone who hurts others. Complaints or new reports then occur, which may encourage other women to testify. We saw it with the PPDA or Nicolas Hulot cases. But when you keep men in power at all costs, you deter other women from talking. However, the problem is that a testimony is never enough. The reality is that the word of a woman who claims to be a victim is never worth the word of a man who claims to be innocent… For people to say there is a problem, women have to be dozens to speak. One or two women talking is never enough to thwart the words of a powerful man…

The time of justice is not at all adapted to the temporality of the news. However, public designation by self-constituted and highly politicized collectives does not seem to be a frankly satisfactory solution either…

The question of proof is very complicated, more than 90% of sexual harassment complaints are dismissed. It’s 70% for rape cases, because there’s the statute of limitations, and because it’s ‘word against word’. If you take the case of one of the young girls who accuses Damien Abad, for example, we are talking, in the context of a relationship that is initially consensual, of a non-consensual sexual practice. It’s against the law, but how do you prove the facts? If you can’t believe a woman who explains that the practice was forced and therefore constituted an assault, you won’t be able to change things. On these subjects, justice has not shown its effectiveness and the victims have turned to other means of action, collective mobilizations to raise public awareness. And, overwhelmingly, society no longer supports these behaviors. I understand that this worries some, but the fight against sexual violence would never have advanced without the MeToo movements and it is the only way that some victims have found to obtain a form of justice.

You spoke of omerta which makes political careers possible despite inappropriate behavior. Do you believe that attempts at regulation by parties can achieve anything?

It is not because today you have business coming out that there is not yet an omerta. A majority of victims continue to remain silent, knowing that they will not win their case from a legal point of view, and will be “fried” in the environment in which they work. The cost of talking is very heavy for women who are in a more fragile position than the man who is implicated. Often, we worry about the fate of these men, but when you look at the reality of the facts, Nicolas Hulot did not leave the government because of these cases, Gérald Darmanin was promoted to first cop in France… Today, despite a very strong emotion in the opinion, Damien Abad is maintained.

Can parties self-regulate? We saw La France insoumise react very quickly during the Taha Bouhafs affair, without considering that the criminal acts of which they were clearly aware deserved to be reported to the prosecutor…

Personally, I find it interesting that there is a place that can centralize the testimonies. In the case of the Abad affair, we see that certain testimonies have been passed on to the party, in particular to the secretary general of the Les Républicains party. Perhaps other testimonies have been reported through other channels, such as the European Parliament… This is where we realize the usefulness of a body that makes it possible to centralize information and better take stock of the problem. But my deep conviction remains that we need independent commissions, because the victims are always afraid to express themselves in a context where the final hierarchical guardianship is potentially their aggressor or a person who has a strong political or friendly link with their aggressor. . When there were cases at the Council of Paris, I pleaded for the creation of an independent commission made up of representatives of the various political groups and qualified personalities, in order to have a neutral place for collecting the floor . This type of independent commission should exist in all elected assemblies. We must draw inspiration from the very difficult work carried out by the Catholic Church to shed light on cases of pedocrime in the Church. This work was made possible by the establishment of an independent commission, after admitting that the institution had been unable to manage the situation internally. The structures always find it very difficult to self-regulate, even more so in the political world where the fear of destabilization is permanent.

Let’s not part without talking politics. The LRs to which you belong won 4.8% in the presidential election, the legislative elections promise to be complicated… Is your political family disappearing?

Nope ! It remains embodied by many elected officials, including myself… Look at Paris, we are the leading political group, we are the voice of opposition to Anne Hidalgo on an important subject which is the degradation of the capital of France. Afterwards, at the national level, we can clearly see that there is indeed an issue of recomposition since the emergence of Emmanuel Macron. But Emmanuel Macron’s system hangs only on Emmanuel Macron… There will come a time when the values ​​that the Republican right stands for will be embodied in a different way. It’s a job that we have to do. Of course, by 2027 there will be the emergence of new figures, new fights, new ideas. What makes our political existence are the ideas that we represent in the country. If elected officials and personalities carry ideas that resonate in the country, the Republican right will endure.

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