Caption: from left to right, Ms Corat, Ms Serre-Monteil, Ms Tomasini, Ms Bonaggiunta, Mr Glogowski and H.E. Mr Rodriguez
On 26 November, UNESCO organized a special session of Gender Views in the framework of the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November). The session was on Comparative Perspectives on Conjugal Violence in France and Canada. Ms Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO’s Director for Gender Equality introduced the speakers and highlighted the importance of having men as allies to address violence against women.
H.E. Mr José Antonio Rodriguez, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to UNESCO, opened the session with an acoustic performance of one of his original songs, Ella solo dijo no, which talks about gender disparities and says no to discrimination. Film director Mr Gilbert Glogowski made a brief presentation before the screening of the film “Je t’aime à la folie”.
The film screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ms Claudine Serre-Monteil, from the French National Commission for UNESCO. The participants were Ms Nathalie Tomasini, Ms Janine Bonaggiunta, lawyers and associates, and Mr Glogowski. Ms Tomasini and Ms Bonaggiunta mentioned that many of the themes touched upon in the film – denial of the victim, denial of the victim’s surroundings and denial of the perpetrator’s actions – were a reality in most cases of domestic violence. Ms Bonaggiunta and Ms Tomasini spoke about their initiative on creating a law firm, BT & Associés, to fight for the protection of victims, and to advocate for police, medical corps and magistrates to better respond to suspected or filed cases of conjugal violence. Ms Tomasini presented comparative accounts of laws and case studies in Canada and France, and in particular highlighted the importance of the laws on self-defense to be sensitive to the particular condition of women victims of domestic violence.
According to Ms Tomasini and Ms Bonaggiunta, the concept of self-defense should evolve in France and around the world and adopt the Canadian model, which is more suitable to the situation of battered women reacting against the violence they have been victims of. Since 1990, Canada recognizes the existence of the syndrome of battered women: a woman who has long suffered violence will often find leaving her aggressor psychologically impossible, due to a feeling of powerlessness following trauma. For the two lawyers, magistrates should have a better understanding of the specific vulnerabilities faced by battered women.
The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session. Among the topics discussed were the #MeToo movement, sexism in the media and the role of culture in changing perceptions of violence against women.