Last year, 122 women were killed by their male partner or ex-partner in France. This means one woman becomes a mortal victim of this type of violence every three days.
In Nantes, 12,000 women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence every year, and 550 children are co-victims. According to AURAN, these figures increase to 24,000 on the metropolitan area scale. But the municipality is committed to stepping in to reduce those numbers through awareness and actions.
The first non-sexist city in France
The council is running an exceptional plan: to make Nantes the first non-sexist city in France by 2030. “It is an ambition that addresses the root causes of these inequalities, which unfortunately remain deeply rooted in our society,” states Mahaut Bertu, Deputy of the City of Nantes for Equality.
“By recognising and denouncing the systemic and ideological nature of sexism, we commit the city to a more assertive approach to the question and to integrate, at all stages of decisions, projects, actions and in all areas, the gender perspective,” she concludes.
At the core of this commitment is the fight against gender-based violence. This has fuelled the City of Nantes’ and Nantes Metropole’s initiative to hold the first National Conference on the fight against gender-based violence on 25-26 November 2022.
The conference intends to raise awareness of gender-based violence while bringing together the general public and the actors around the need to mobilise collectively. Individuals, local non-profits and public stakeholders will all gather to discuss, learn and bring ideas to action against this type of violence.
“By recognising the systemic nature of sexism and the existence of the continuum of gender-based violence – that is, the fact that all manifestations of sexism, from the most trivial (a joke, for example) to the most serious (femicide) are interconnected – new fields of action are opened up to prevent gender-based violence,” adds Bertu.
A city that protects vulnerable women
But Nantes believes mitigating this type of violence is more than one day of work. The consequences of the violence are severe and long-lasting. Experiencing violence can lead to lifelong problems if the person does not receive all the help and care they need. Thus, six out of ten women who have suffered domestic violence develop post-traumatic stress. Domestic violence also has a severe impact on children.
The city showed its commitment through a pledge that presented one of its more relevant long-term actions, ‘Citad’elles’. This 24-hour, 365-day reception centre for women victims of violence, and beyond that, for women in general, is an innovative structure that brings together services to accompany and help women control their lives in cases of extreme vulnerability.
The Citad’Elles team is made up of people trained in listening to and supporting women who are victims of violence. They are psychologists, social workers, lawyers, nurses, psychiatrists, midwives, specialised educators, police officers, gendarmes, lawyers, etc.
This multidisciplinary team can support women in essential steps such as health, law, social and psychological assistance, and filing a complaint. It also offers self-confidence recovery and revitalisation activities such as support groups or art therapy.
Apart from working on the consolidation of this centre that opened in 2019, Nantes increased the support for local associations and promoted access to emergency and transitional housing for women victims of violence and their children.
To prevent gender-based violence, the municipality develops behavioural communication campaigns and awareness-raising actions – especially for young people – training its agents to prevent and fight against gender-based and intra-family violence. For example, agents in day care centres who can identify situations to municipal police who can intervene in public spaces.
A long-term struggle
Beyond corrective measures and support measures for victims – which remain essential as long as violence exists – Nantes deploys new actions to reduce the collective threshold of tolerance to violence by working on individual practices, mindsets, and collective norms.
“For example,” adds Bertu, “when we work on the design of schoolyards to better promote co-education and equality between girls and boys, we are already building a future where relations will be more peaceful. The absence of co-education, knowledge of the other and sharing a common experience generates fear and competition from a very young age. It creates the breeding ground for stereotypes, violence and domination.”
In the non-sexist city public policy framework, different actions, such as a gender-sensitive budget, will be implemented. All those actions are part of a long-term strategy. “We have set the strategic course and the philosophy of our action. We now have to implement the more operational objectives,” says Bertu.
This article is part of a series on how cities tackle gender-based violence and eliminate violence against women in Europe to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of activism until human rights day on 10 December. Previous articles in this series include: