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Anger at Dati’s supermum example

Justice Minister Rachida Dati’s quick return to work after giving birth has sparked anger among feminists.

JUSTICE Minister Rachida Dati’s quick return to work after having her first baby has sparked anger amongst feminists who say she sets a bad example.

The 43-year-old minister returned to work just five days after giving birth to baby girl Zohra by caesarean last Friday. She left hospital carrying the baby in the morning and attended a cabinet meeting at the Elysee later that day, smiling and wearing a black suit and high heels.

She insisted she was feeling fine, however women’s groups in France have hit out at her decision, saying she sets an unrealistic supermum style example for new mothers.

"This is scandalous," said Maya Sturduts from the National Collective for the Rights of Women.

"Employers can now use this to put pressure on women,” she said, especially during the current tough economic times when employers may be looking for excuses to cut staff.

Women in France are guaranteed by law 16 weeks of paid maternity leave of which 10 weeks are usually taken after the baby's birth. However the French labour code does not apply to ministers like Dati.

Women's rights activist Florence Montreynaud, a mother of four, said she was "shocked" by Dati's decision to go back to work so quickly and stressed that women do need to rest after delivery.

Montreynaud compared Dati to working women in the 1920s who "gave birth in the factories" and lamented that her decision would exacerbate the divide between "superwomen and wimps" in the workforce.

Vice president of the French gynaecologists' association Georges-Fabrice Blum said pregnancy was not an illness and there are no ill effects from a quick return to work.

He added that caesarean sections "are a lot less debilitating nowadays in terms of returning to work" and that much of the pain and discomfort can subside the day after the operation. However he recommended rest for a period of three weeks to a month.

Marie-Pierre Martinez, the secretary general of the Planned Parenthood association, said Dati "had no choice" but to go back to work to defend her standing in France's male-dominated politics.

"Absence is a way of being kept out of the loop," said Martinez, who noted that Dati has made no secret of the fact that she is ambitious.

The European Commission has recommended that maternity leave be extended to18 weeks saying it would help families in Europe better organise their new lives with a baby.

Dati, who is single, has kept the father's identity under wraps, telling reporters she had "a complicated private life."

President Nicolas Sarkozy paid a warm tribute to the "young mother" Dati during the cabinet meeting.

"Rachida has always said that to be a mother was the greatest of happinesses, but at the same time that she had important duties that she would continue to fulfil," government spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters.

Photo:Afp/Gerard Cerles

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