Frenchwomen protest violence by wearing skirts

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Decades after fighting for the right to wear trousers, all French women were on Thursday called on to perform the "militant act" of wearing a skirt to protest violence against women.

At least 135,000 women are taking part in the protest, according to its Facebook page, organised by rights group Neither Whores Nor Submissive (NPNS) as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

"Wearing a skirt is a militant act, in daily life, at the workplace, in the street, at home, because today everywhere is a place of danger for women," Sihem Habchi, who heads the NPNS, told AFP.

NPNS mainly defends the rights of women in France's occasionally tense suburbs, where "the skirt is definitely a symbol of resistance," said Habchi.

It can be difficult for young women to wear skirts in some suburbs because of male jibes and occasional attacks which make the garment a symbol of standing up for women's rights, NPNS says.

A charity event hosted by actress Isabelle Adjani on Thurday evening will see skirts belonging to the likes of actresses Fanny Ardant and Sophie Marceau, writer Amelie Nothomb and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg auctioned off.

The proceeds will be used to pay for interim safe-houses for battered wives.

Statistics show that in 2009, 654,000 Frenchwomen said they were victims of physical or sexual violence, a 15-percent increase since 2007, Habchi said.

© 2010 AFP

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