On Sunday, February 2, over 100,000 protesters gathered in Paris and Lyon to accuse the government of “family-phobia,” due to recent planned policies to introduce gender equality lessons in schools as well as the recent legalization of same-sex marriage.
The protesters were also urging the government to remove new legislation that will allow medical procedures assisting same-sex couples in having children.
The protest was led by right-wing organization “Manif Pour Tous,” which translates to “Protest for Everyone.” Manif Pour Tous also organized many of the protests against same-sex marriage and adoption in 2013.
The campaigners claimed to be marching in favor of their perception of traditional family values, declaring they are against both the legalization of marriage equality and proposed changes in same-sex adoption and IVF policies.
In anticipation of the protest, around 1,500 police officers were positioned in Paris and around 600 in Lyon.
The Interior minister, Manuel Valls, warned that any violence towards the police would be dealt with severely.
Government ministers have insisted that procedures to help gay couples have children are not even included in the new legislation.
Currently, French law allows assisted reproduction for married couples with infertility problems. However, gay and lesbian couples considering this option must go to nearby Belgium or Spain to gain such medical help legally.
The more moderate French right wing have attempted to distance themselves from what has been described by Valls as the “Tea Party à la française.”
The center-right opposition party UMP were torn as to whether to join the protest; party president Jean-François Copé urged people to join, whilst other party members encouraged remaining at home.
Anger has been increasing recently due to newspaper speculation that the French government intends to teach gender theory to primary school children. Many newspapers’ claims spiraled out of control, with some reporting that the government intends to teach children how to masturbate and reject their own sexual identity. The government has denied that any of this speculation is true.
Current President François Hollande, a Socialist, has seen his popularity hit rock bottom as a widespread sense of dissatisfaction spreads across France.
Sunday, January 25 saw Paris’ “Day of Anger,” which quickly turned ugly with a large coalition of extremist groups shouting anti-Semitic slogans and acting out Nazi salutes.
Hollande described the protests as “repressive and regressive.”
Valls followed suit, saying it was as a “revolt of the antis: anti-elite, anti-state, anti-tax, anti-parliament, anti-journalists…but also and above all, anti-semites, racists and homophobes. Put simply, they are anti-republicans.”
Many conservatives in France have struggled to accept the legalization of equal marriage since the law was passed on May 18, 2013, leading to a variety of protests.