Theodoros Benakis

The French far-right National Rally undermines gender equality

Marine Le Pen at the European Parliament, 2017.

In January, the French lower assembly discussed and voted on a bill proposal of the far-right National Rally to reintroduce uniform in French public schools and colleges.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party in the National Assembly, said the proposal addresses two challenges – the competition between brands and pressure of Islamists on schoolchildren.

The conservative Republicans was the only other group to vote the text, considering the uniform is a matter of ‘general interest’ as MP Maxime Minot said.

Education Minister Pap Ndiaye is not in favour of making school uniform obligatory. He stressed that public schools are free to impose or not dress codes.

However, Renaissance, the party of French President Emmanuel Macron, seems deeply divided on the issue. Some MPs speak in favour of bringing back uniforms while others are against it.

The left parties strongly opposed the proposal, as expected.

Interestingly, National Rally bill found a supporter in the person of the first lady and former teacher Brigitte Macron.

Fortunately, 577 MPs – the majority – rejected the bill on Thursday, January 12.

However, the debate provoked by the far-right confirms that traditionalism, bigotry, and ultraconservatism have a significant stake in the political debate in France.

Stop gender equality?

What distinguishes the European societies is their commitment to the respect of human dignity. Respect to human dignity means unconditional acceptance of the gender equality.

The reintroduction of uniforms at schools is an attempt to gender equality, as it concerns only the girls. An act of discrimination!

What really means that uniforms will stop the competition between brands? Generations who experienced uniforms at schools remember the different cloth qualities employed in uniforms manufacturing. Expensive against low quality uniforms.

In what concerns the pressure of Islamists on schoolchildren, that the reintroduction of uniforms would stop, is a paradigm of vulgare populism.

Flirting right-wing populism is dangerous.

What is interesting in this debate is not the far-right attempt to attack gender equality. It is that the Renaissance party that belongs to the European liberal family has a component of supporters of such a conservative ideas.

The rise of far-right parties across the EU member states had a negative impact on many parties of the big European political families: the Christian democrats, Socialist democrats, and Liberals. In some cases parties of these families adopted part of the far-right rhetoric aiming to raise barriers against the right wing populist political growth. The Danish Social Democrats adopted part of the anti-immigration programme of the far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP) or the Greek Nea Democratia that adopted the ultranationalist rhetoric of the far-right groups and parties on the “Macedonia issue” in 2018. In other EU countries the far-right parties were invited to join coalition governments or provide their political support like in Italy, Austria, Latvia, Finland, Estonia etc.

These interactions between the democratic political parties and the far-right ones created only problems, impacting social cohesion, fundamental rights, and national security, among many. The Ibiza Scandal that caused a deep crisis in the Austrian government and threatened national security is maybe the most blatant!

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