Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) is a French feminist movement, founded in 2002, which has already secured the recognition of the French press and the National Assembly of France. It is generally dependent on public funding. It is also the name of a book written by Fadela Amara, one of the leaders of the movement, with the help of Le Monde journalist Sylvia Zappi.
NPNS was set up by a group of young French women, including Samira Bellil, in response to the violence being directed at them in the suburbs (banlieues) and housing estates (cités) of cities such as Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, where rape and violence towards women have occurred at relatively high rates.
The movement fights against violence targeting women and it focuses on these areas:
- Pressure to wear the hijab
- Pressure to drop out of school
- Pressure to marry early without being able to choose the husband.
The slogan used by the movement is meant both to shock and mobilise. Members particularly protest against changes of attitudes toward women, reputedly due to an increased influence of radical Islam in those French suburbs that are mostly inhabited by people of the "Islamic" Maghreb [North Africa]. A particular concern is the treatment of Muslim women, who may be pressured into wearing veils, leaving school, and marrying early. However, the movement represents women of all faiths and ethnic origins, all of whom may find themselves trapped by poverty and the ghettoisation of the cités.
A translation of the key points of NPNS's national appeal on its official website:
- No more moralising: our condition has worsened. The media and politics have done nothing, or very little, for us.
- No more wretchedness. We are fed up with people speaking for us, with being treated with contempt.
- No more justifications of our oppression in the name of the right to be different and of respect toward those who force us to bow our heads.
- No more silence in public debates about violence, poverty and discrimination.
Two high-profile cases gave a particular impetus to NPNS during 2003. The first was that of Samira Bellil, who published a book called Dans l'enfer des tournantes ("In Gang Rape Hell") in which she recounts her life as a girl under la loi des cités (the law of the housing estates) where she was gang raped on more than one occasion, the first time at age 13, afraid to speak out, and ultimately seen only as a sexual object, alienated and shunned by her family and some of her friends. The second case was that of 17-year-old Sohanne Benziane who was burned alive by an alleged small-time gang leader.
In the wake of these events, members of Ni Putes Ni Soumises staged a march through France, which started in February 2003 and passed through to over 20 cities before culminating in a 30,000-strong demonstration in Paris on March 8, 2003. The march was officially called la Marche des femmes des quartiers contre les ghettos et pour l'égalité (The March of Women from the housing estates against ghettoes and for equality).
Representatives of Ni Putes Ni Soumises were received by French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin. Their message was also incorporated into the official celebrations of Bastille Day 2003 in Paris, when 14 giant posters each of a modern woman dressed as Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, were hung on the columns of the Palais Bourbon, the home of the Assemblée nationale (the lower house of the French parliament).
The following five propositions were accepted by the French government:
- The publication of an educational guide dealing with respect, to be distributed in the housing projects and schools.
- The establishment of safe houses away from the housing estates for girls and women in immediate distress, where they can be safe in relative anonymity.
- The creation of six pilot sites where women will be able to have their voices heard.
- The organisation of training seminars for women to develop their particular strengths.
- Special provisions made in police stations for girls and women who have been the victims of violence.
Ni Putes Ni Soumises has been criticized by various French feminists and left-wing authors (Sylvie Tissot, Elsa Dorlin, Étienne Balibar, Houria Bouteldja, etc.), who claimed that it overshadowed the work of other feminist NGOs and that it supported an Islamophobic instrumentalization of feminism by the French Right.
Houria Bouteldja qualified Ni Putes ni Soumises as an Ideological State Apparatus (AIE). The debate among the French Left concerning the 2004 law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools, mainly targeted against the hijab, is to be seen under this light. They underline that, first, sexism is not a specificity of immigrant populations, as if French culture itself was devoid of sexism, and second, that the focus on mediatic and violent acts passes under silence the precarization of women.
Sylvie Tissot writes that Amara collaborated with the Cercle de l'Oratoire (a think-tank which supported the US invasion of Iraq), and Mohammed Abdi, the current president of the NGO, is a member of this think-tank.
- Islam and domestic violence
- Social situation in the French suburbs
- MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism
- Ni Putes Ni Soumises - Le Site Officiel -
- Sylvie Tissot, Bilan d’un féminisme d’État, in Plein Droit n°75, December 2007
- Elsa Dorlin (professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne, member of NextGenderation), « Pas en notre nom ! » - Contre la récupération raciste du féminisme par la droite française (Not in our names! Against the Racist Recuperation of Feminism by the French Right), L'Autre Campagne (Template:ISO 639 name fr)
- Étienne Balibar, Uprising in the "banlieues", Conference at the University of Chicago, 10 May 2006 Template:En icon (published in French in Lignes, November 2006)
- Houria Bouteldja, De la cérémonie du dévoilement à Alger (1958) à Ni Putes Ni Soumises: l’instrumentalisation coloniale et néo-coloniale de la cause des femmes., Ni putes ni soumises, un appareil idéologique d’État, June 2007 (Template:ISO 639 name fr)
- Qui est Fadela Amara? (Template:ISO 639 name fr)
- BELLIL, Samira: Dans l'enfer des tournantes, Gallimard, 2003, ISBN 2-07-042990-3.
- AMARA, Fadela & ZAPPI, Sylvia: Ni putes ni soumises, La Découverte, 2003, ISBN 2-7071-4142-9. Review
- Official website (in French)
- Ni Putes ni Soumises Rallies: in photos
- Neither whores nor submissives
- Time Europe: Acting on the outrage
- Time Magazine: Sisters In Hell
- Book review Neither whores nor submissives and In gang-rape hell
- Vanity Fair: Daughters of France, Daughters of Allah