Critics have slammed French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent defence of actor Gérard Depardieu, who faces accusations of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women.

In an interview, President Macron characterised the situation as a “manhunt” against Depardieu and insisted that France’s highest honour, the Legion of Honour, should not be revoked from the actor. Depardieu, known for his acclaimed roles, has been accused by 13 women and was caught making inappropriate remarks in a recent documentary.

Despite the allegations, Macron praised Depardieu as “a great actor” who “makes France proud”. The documentary, released this month, features Depardieu allegedly sexually harassing a translator and ‘making inappropriate comments’ about a 10-year-old child. In response, the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, revoked Depardieu’s honour from the Canadian province on December 13.

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However, Macron defended the Legion of Honour bestowed upon Depardieu in 1996, claiming that it is “not there to do any moralising” and should not be rescinded based solely on “reports”.

Depardieu has been under judicial investigation for rape and sexual assault since 2020. In April of the same year, he faced accusations of sexual assault or harassment from 13 women, all of which he vehemently denies.

Critics, including feminist figures such as Sandrine Rousseau and Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, have expressed outrage at Macron’s defence of Depardieu. Rousseau argued that the president insulted sexual violence victims by supporting the actor.

Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, a Paris councillor for the Greens, stressed the need for accountability, stating that unless Depardieu is held responsible, victims of alleged sexual assault will not be prioritised over a man’s reputation.

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This controversy adds to existing concerns regarding Macron’s commitment to gender equality, a cause he pledged to champion. A 2022 report criticised his policies as “insufficient” in transforming a “profoundly sexist system”.

Feminist groups have previously questioned Macron’s choices, including the appointment of Gérald Darmanin as interior minister in 2020, despite facing two accusations of rape. Although Darmanin has not been convicted, feminist groups found fault in Macron’s decision.

Despite the appointment of Élisabeth Borne as France’s second female prime minister in the past year, Macron’s actions are seen by critics as falling short of addressing the deep-seated issues of gender inequality within the country.

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