May 25, 2011 / 10:40 AM / 8 years ago

French women accuse minister of sex harassment

PARIS (Reuters) - Two French women are filing legal complaints against a government minister they accuse of sexual harassment, apparently encouraged to speak up after the recent arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in sex crime charges.

French junior Minister for the Civil Service Georges Tron arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris for the first ministers' weekly cabinet meeting after a government reshuffle November 17, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Gilbert Collard, lawyer for the women, said he had submitted the complaints against Civil Service Minister Georges Tron to a public prosecutor this week and he confirmed to Reuters that the accusation was sexual harassment.

Tron’s lawyer, Olivier Schnerb, dismissed the complaints and said he had been instructed to respond by filing a slander complaint in return.

Tron himself told Reuters he had informed Prime Minister Francois Fillon about the matter, adding that the plaintiffs were women who had been dismissed from their town hall posts.

The women concerned are former employees at the town hall of Draveil, a city just south of Paris where Tron is mayor.

“The complaint was sent by mail on Monday and reiterated by the plaintiffs this morning,” Collard said.

One of the women described the reasons for her complaint in an interview, under a false name, in Le Parisien newspaper.

She said she felt encouraged to break her silence by the news that the now former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been arrested and accused of attempted rape on the basis of the accusations of a New York hotel maid.

“When I see that a little chambermaid is capable of taking on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I tell myself I do not have the right to stay silent,” said the woman, whom the newspaper called Laura, adding that this was not her real name.

Strauss-Kahn, who was favourite to win next year’s French presidential election, was arrested in New York on May 14 and has been charged with attempting to rape a Sofitel hotel maid, charges he has denied and vowed to fight.

The arrest has triggered soul-searching and debate in France about tolerance of sexual harassment and media reluctance to pursue and highlight such issues more aggressively.

Reporting by Gerard Bon, Emmanuel Jarry and Marc Angrand; Writing by Brian Love

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