UPDATE: Jacqueline is now free! – 28/12/16
After 14 months of hard work and campaigning run by feminist in France, Jacqueline Sauvage will finally be freed! Jacqueline was condemned to 10 years in prison on 10th of October 2014. Feminists protested and created a petition for Hollande to grant his forgiveness, which was signed almost 400.000 times! On 31st of January 2016, Hollande partially pardoned her which would result her being in prison for 2 years and 4 months. The lawyers asked for her probation but the court ruled out this demand August 12th, 2016. Today Hollande made a historical announcement and declared: “I have decided to grant Jacqueline Sauvage a gracious remission of the remainder of her sentence. This grace will put an immediate end to her detention.” Yesterday it was Jacqueline’s birthday and as of today she will be a free woman! Thanks to feminists in France, thanks to the big fight they’ve put! You may read Jacqueline’s story below, I hope her case will become an example case for more “equal” laws in France!
There’s this belief that human rights have developed so much in Western countries, therefore we don’t need feminism anymore. As a woman born and raised in a “less developed” country such as Turkey, and who now lives in Paris, I would be lying to say that I don’t benefit from the modern and democratic life in France. The rights and freedom that I have here has liberated me, made me a different woman over the past 2.5 years. Yet there’s still so much more to achieve when it comes to women’s rights in France. When I announce myself as a feminist to someone, I often get this response: “Oh, so you’re a feminist for privileged women, but what about the women who get raped in Middle-Eastern countries, what do you do for them?”
I’m sorry for not being able to be in touch with every single woman who is oppressed in the world, for not being able to raise awareness on each one’s oppression. Please let me know if you know someone who’s capable of doing that. I’d like to tell you that even though some women are more privileged than others, they still face the similar kind of oppression. As for Jacqueline Sauvage’s case, they also face the similar kind of justice.
Jacqueline Sauvage is a 68-year-old convicted murderer in France. She shot her husband of 47 years, back in 2012 and recently she has been convicted of murder and sentenced to jail for 10 years. Why would someone shoot a person that they have lived together for 47 years, and had 4 children with? What’s wrong with this woman?
Here’s what’s wrong, and the thing that’s wrong is not with this woman, but with the patriarchal abuse. Jacqueline Sauvage woke up one night to her husband trying to get in their room. He actually broke the handle of the door, threw it at her, and started to punch and kick her. It was a regular routine for her. Why was he doing it this time? Because he wanted soup! Once the beating was over he went out in the terrace, waiting for his soup. That’s when it finally hit Jacqueline, that she could not stand this anymore. She took the rifle from their room, walked towards him, shot him in the back 3 times, and then called the police to say: “I killed my husband.”
Jacqueline Sauvage met her husband when she was a teenager. She was physically and psychologically abused for almost half of a century! This man abused not only her, but their four children as well. Their son committed suicide just one day before the murder, due to the fact that his father beat him. Their daughters have been physically and sexually abused by him. Sylvie Marot, one of the daughters, testified in the name of her sisters and said that the sexual abuse began when they were about 6-7 years old, and once they got older he started to rape them.
People who testified in the court, neighbors, friends, even the mayor explained about the ongoing abuse for all these years. One neighbor even said “thank you” to Jacqueline Sauvage, “now we can sleep easily.”
Yet the court decided to come to conclusion on two facts; none of the victims ever took this ongoing abuse case to authorities, until the murder occured and the restrictive French law that states, when there’s an attack, an act of riposte is self-defense and that the two acts have to be proportional. Jacqueline Sauvage killed her husband not during but after the attack. She used a rifle, whereas he used a door knob, his fists and his kicks, so the court ruled that it was not self-defense. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Jacqueline Sauvage was suffering from battered person syndrome, which is the physical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered persistent emotional, physical and sexual abuse from another person. The courts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA accept battered woman defense, where women have used force to defend themselves or killed their abuser due to the abusive and life-threatening circumstances they are in. This law does not exist in France, therefore the court have focused on the fact that the victims did not report the abuse, but not on the fact why they could not!
Below you may watch how Jacqueline’s daughter broke down in tears after the court’s desicion:
There’s this pardoning system in France, which I came to be aware of due to this case, it’s called “la grâce presidentielle.” It dates back to the monarchy times when people objected to the judiciary system and sought justice from the power above. So François Hollande, has the right to “pardon” Jacqueline Sauvage for the “crime” she committed. The daughters of Jacqueline Sauvage had lodged their application for the pardoning and in the meantime a feminist activist from “Osez le Féminisme”, Karine Plassard, launched a petition via change.org to collect signatures for Jacqueline Sauvage to be pardoned. Currently there are over 325.000 people asking Hollande to pardon her.
In the meantime a Facebook page was dedicated for the cause and women have prepared a postcard template to send to president Hollande with the request. People are also sending letters to Jacqueline Sauvage to show their solidarity with her. On January 22nd, FEMEN protested in front of the prison where Jacqueline Sauvage is kept, asked for her to be free and dug up a symbolic tunnel for her to escape.
On January 23rd solidarity with Jacqueline movement organized a protest in Bastille square, Paris, where hundreds of feminists participated in speak out the demand on liberating Jacqueline Sauvage. I participated in that protest, where I saw not only representatives from various feminist associations but people who are not a part of one. There were many who travelled from various cities around France to participate in this protest.
I briefly interviewed Karine Plassard, who has launched the petition and organized the gathering, and learned that there has been no statement from Hollande yet. I know that this pardoning will help Jacqueline, who was in psychological captivity and was physically abused for 47 years, live the rest of her life free, but I asked Karine if this will solve the real issue, and there I learned the fact that there actually is no law for “violence against women” in France! She told me that there are articles that state equality between men and women, there are articles that state violence against women but it’s all scattered within the law. There’s no inclusionary main law that addresses this issue as a whole!
This was the case for Turkey as well, but back in 2012 feminists have gathered a law themselves and made it pass through the parliament! So I asked her if this would be the case for France; she told me that this is indeed what they are working on. Yet she said that all feminists associations should unite for this cause. There are feminists working on various fields, yet for this law to be prepared, they need to work together. They need to work with lawyers, people who know the law, who know what exactly to propose such has having a special budget for this cause as well. She told me that there’s no mention of “domestic violence” in the French law, that if you are abused by your partner it’s handled the same way as if you were abused by some stranger! She also added that the article addressing rape does not mention consent; the word consent is nowhere to be found in that article! She said that they have wanted this law for more than 30 years now, and she called out to all the feminists to unite in order to make this happen.
“Will Hollande pardon Jacqueline Sauvage?” is what the media in France asks at the moment. In my opinion this is a great opportunity for Hollande and his party to win back the popularity they’ve been losing. Pardoning Jacqueline Sauvage and then working together with women’s rights activists in order to pass this law, is indeed essential for human’s rights development for France!