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‘Polanski defenders are setting women’s rights back decades in France’

Columnist Nabila Ramdani gives her view after actress Emmanuelle Seigner said in an interview that her husband Roman Polanski should be “left in peace”

Emmanuelle Seigner is married to Roman Polanski Pic: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Listening to a self-obsessed showbiz worker discussing the intricacies of her private life can be an unsettling experience. 

Beyond droning on about glamorous homes and fad diets, they invariably offer too much information about messy relationships, while mixing them with woefully half-baked opinions about political or social issues. 

This was certainly the case when Emmanuelle Seigner – a French actor, model and singer – started mitigating on behalf of a convicted child sex abuser on a TV chat show. 

Looking peculiarly sinister on TF1’s Sept à Huit, she made out that her husband Roman Polanski was ultimately misunderstood and should be “left in peace”. 

Worse, Ms Seigner said Polanski – a fugitive from American justice after raping a schoolgirl in Hollywood in 1977 – could not have been guilty of such a heinous crime because “all the young girls wanted to sleep with him”. 

She intimated that what he did was somehow acceptable in a “more permissive age”, and that the gruesome details of how Polanski, then 43, forced himself on a 13-year-old had never shocked her.

Read more: Le Pen: Polanski not above the law

Called critics 'mad'

Polanski is accused of other sexual crimes, but Ms Seigner called his critics “mad”. 

If all that was not bad enough, Ms Seigner even attacked the #MeToo movement, which has seen thousands of women across the world highlighting sex assaults online and then bringing their tormentors to justice. 

She said it had been responsible for “a lot of abuse, lies, which discredit victims and do them a disservice”. 

In short: young women are being far too hard on rich, powerful men like Polanski. Ms Seigner, 56, is, of course, biased. 

She has been married to the 89-year-old director since she was 23, and they share a prosperous, relatively untroubled life together. 

France no extradition treaty with the US

France does not have an extradition treaty with the US so he is free to live and work. 

However, Ms Seigner’s disturbing views echo those of a Paris arts establishment which is at best amoral, and at worst criminally irresponsible. 

Women who are far more famous than Ms Seigner summed up the problem in 2018 when they wrote an open letter to Le Monde saying #MeToo in part represented a “hatred of men” who had the right to “hit on women”. 

Signatories such as Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Millet moderated their opinions later on, but the damage was done. 

Even Brigitte Bardot – arguably the most famous French movie icon of all – had joined in the pillorying of alleged sex abuse victims, saying many were “hypocritical, ridiculous, and uninteresting”. 

Bardot is also known for her sulphurous political views – she has criminal convictions for spreading racial hatred against ethnic and religious minorities – but as an A-list grande dame, you might expect her to be kinder to other women. 

France is a country where the most powerful man of all – the president – has traditionally always been associated with humiliating women. 

Whether it was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who reportedly crashed a borrowed sports car after a wild night in Paris with a famous actress in the passenger seat, François Mitterrand keeping a secret family on the public payroll, Jacques Chirac and his legendary turbulent private life, or François Hollande heading off to cheat on his première dame on the back of a moped, they have always set the tone for a thoroughly sexist country. 

Emmanuel Macron might yet buck the trend – he appears to be a loyal and decent husband – but with women like Ms Seigner on the offensive, it is clear that the country still has a great deal of work to do.  

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