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France's Baupin sexual harassment case leaves bitter taste

By Hugh Schofield
BBC News, Paris

image copyrightAFP
image captionDenis Baupin is married to French Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse

Hard not to feel depressed and disenchanted by the allegations of sexual harassment now swirling around Denis Baupin, the deputy speaker of the French assembly who resigned on Monday.

Depressed because it appears to be proof once again of the sexual arrogance of so many French males, especially in politics. If you thought that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Socialist presidential hopeful brought down by a string of sex scandals, represented a dying breed, then you may have to think again.

Disenchanted because, whatever the facts in the case, there are serious questions about how and why the affair has suddenly come to light.

The French Greens, or to give their full name Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV), are a party divided on just about every issue that affects them.

Allegations against Denis Baupin

  • As many as eight women have come forward giving details of sexual impropriety
  • Greens spokeswoman Sandrine Rousseau said he groped her breast in a corridor and tried to kiss her
  • Former Green MP Isabelle Attard said she had received salacious texts almost daily
  • Denis Baupin denies the allegations and his lawyers says he may sue the women for defamation

'Sexual harassment' politician quits in France

Denis Baupin belonged to a faction that supports continuing co-operation with President Francois Hollande. Indeed his wife, Emmanuelle Cosse, also a member of that faction, is actually a government minister.

But in recent weeks the split in the party between joiners-in and stayers-out has turned nasty.

Emmanuelle Cosse was fired from the Greens after accepting her government post. A few weeks ago Denis Baupin also resigned.

Without taking away one iota from the seriousness of the case, it is impossible not to ask: Why are these accusations emerging now - just when Mr Baupin has become persona non grata?

The Green Party has always been extremely vocal in the fight against sexism. So why did Denis Baupin's alleged victims (all members of the Greens or with links to them) not speak out before?

image copyrightAFP
image captionGreen Party spokeswoman Sandrine Rousseau alleged that Denis Baupin had groped her in 2011

Former Environment Minister Corinne Lepage has written an interesting article (in French) which chimes exactly with this line of reasoning.

The Baupin affair, she says, is on two levels.

'Party casseroles'

The first, obvious issue is the alleged sexual harassment by a leading politician.

Given recent history, involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn and others, the claims against Mr Baupin come as no surprise, except perhaps that this time it is the supposedly ultra-ethical Green Party at the centre of the storm.

The second issue, says Corinne Lepage, is what the affair says about the sinister way in which French political parties too often operate.

"One of the corner-stones," she writes, "of the party system is the casserole (secret scandal). It is indispensable for a political party to have at its disposal casseroles for deployment against not just its enemies, but also its own members.

"It means they can force deputies to toe the party line… or risk being exposed."

image copyrightDenis Baupin
image captionThe accusers say they were disgusted by Mr Baupin appearing in a tweet condemning violence against women a few weeks ago

The stories about Denis Baupin's allegedly chauvinistic behaviour have, it seems, been around for years. They were given to the press just after he jumped ship.

The accusers say they did not speak out earlier because they feared for their careers, because they were not sure how other Green Party members would react.

Supposedly it was only when they saw Mr Baupin parading himself recently in a pro-feminist tweet that they felt so disgusted by his hypocrisy they had to react.


No-one wants to belittle the significance of the allegations. But there is more than a little suspicion that it is all politics by other means.

Related Topics

  • Sexual violence
  • France
  • Women's rights
  • Sexism

More on this story

  • France 'sexual harassment' politician Denis Baupin quits