TENS of thousands of supporters of the Manif pour Tous (MPT) movement gathered in Paris yesterday to protest against gender equality teaching in schools and to oppose fertility treatment for same-sex couples.
The movement staged a series of protests last year before same-sex marriage was legalised in France. The largest of them brought the centre of Paris to a standstill.
Its focus now is on a proposed new family law which it believes may include allowing same-sex couples to undergo fertility treatment, including IVF. The law is set to be debated in the spring.
A prominent Muslim contingent joined yesterday’s marches in Paris and Lyon, to add their voice to opposition over perceived « gender-theory » in schools.
Protesters said they were worried about the state’s role in sex education, and the supposed “gender theory” lurking behind an “ABCD of equality” initiative aimed at breaking down gender stereotypes in schools.
“The state has no business lecturing children on subjects as private as sexual identity or of imposing adult preoccupations on young children,” MPT leader Ludivine de la Rochère said during yesterday’s march in central Paris.
Responding to the protests, Interior Minster Manuel Valls today said that the marches were based on unjustified and unnecessary concerns. He said the draft law would not include permitting surrogacy or extending assisted reproductive technology to lesbians.
Yesterday, he likened the MTP to America’s Tea Party movement. It is linked to right-wing political parties and to conservative Catholic groups.
According to protesters, nearly 500,000 joined the march in Paris, and another 40,000 took to the streets of Lyon. Police put the numbers closer to 80,000 in the capital and 20,000 in Lyon.
The difference in figures can be put down to differences in counting systems, neither of which is precise, with organisers often erring on the optimistic side.
Following last year’s marches in Paris, police insisted they aim for “total objectivity” and said their counting is done by specialist officials.
At the time, a spokesman said: “There are three different counting points, with people in elevated positions, with two officials at each point counting the lines of people that pass by them from the start to the end of the event.
“What we call a line is a straight line across the road, with each person that crosses it counted as being part of a line.”
Officials compare results at the end of the event and a final check is also made from video recordings the following day. “We invite the press to see our methods and try them for themselves. When they’ve taken it up they’ve come to the same results.”