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MPs debate more paternity leave

A gender equality bill due for a vote this Friday aims at encouraging more men to take time off work

NEW fathers are being encouraged to take more paternity leave, as politicians debate a wide-ranging bill on gender equality.

Ministers are debating a bill that offers six months leave to the “second” parent of a one-child family, as they try to persuade up to 100,000 French fathers to take their full paternity allowance by 2017, compared to the current 18,000.

More controversially, when it comes to families with two children or more, if the father does not take a six-month allocation the bill cuts the standard three-year parental leave period to two-and-a-half.

The article was challenged by some UMP MPs, who claim it threatens couples’ freedom but Minister of Women's Rights Najat Belkacem-Vallaud insisted that the move was needed to change traditional views of paternity leave.

Tension has surrounded the wide-ranging legislation, which also includes proposed changes to abortion rights, sparking angry protests over the weekend.

On Sunday, pro-life demonstrators (16,000 according to police, 40,000 according to the organisers) took to the streets of Paris to oppose to the bill, which would end a requirement for women to prove they are in “distress” to legally terminate a pregnancy.

Later, outspoken actress Frederique Bel posted a naked photo of herself on Twitter to denounce those who she believes are trying to dictate what she can do with her body.

It is not the first time the star has used social media in this way. She also posted a series of body shots during the 2012 Presidential Election campaign.

The law would also ban girls under the age of 13 from taking part in beauty pageants, following a government report.

Businesses that fail to comply with the laws will be barred from bidding for government contracts.

The vote on the gender equality bill - including the section on abortion - will take place on Friday, the day President Hollande meets Pope Francis.

Photo: Barbara Mürdter

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