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Thousands of people thronged the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest a government-proposed bill that would allow single women and lesbian couples the same access to medically assisted fertility treatments as heterosexual couples, including IVF.
“Its not normal,” 27-year-old mother-to-be Charlotte from Paris told FRANCE 24 as she and her husband, who wished not to be identified for fear of harming his chances of finding employment if publicly associated with the conservative movement, joined the march against the proposed law.
“What worries me is that if we accept that a child doesnt need to have a father in its life, then we create a society where children no longer have any benchmarks,” she said, grimacing at the thought of one day having to explain to her own child why some children grow up with two mothers and no father.
Sundays demonstration made its way from the French senate to the Montparnasse tower in central Paris and was organised by around a dozen conservative and religious groups, including the “Manif Pour Tous” movement and the Alliance for Catholic Families, which spearheaded the protests against former president Francois Hollandes gay marriage bill in 2013.
While organisers put the number of participants at around 600,000, an independent auditor commissioned by French media groups put the number of demonstrators at 74,500.
Music and hotdog stands
Waving red and green flags with the message “Liberty, Equality and Paternity”, and home-made signs with texts like “Papa+Maman, theres nothing better for a child” and “Everyone is born from a man and a woman”, many of the protesters had brought their children along to the carnival-like rally, which also contained pop-up hotdog and waffle stands to serve hungry participants. Popular songs, like Ed Sheerans “Shape of You” and the Verves “Bittersweet Symphony” blared from the loudspeakers as organisers encouraged protesters to call at least 10 people in their phone lists to come and join the protest “for the sake of the rights of the child”.
In order to boost protest numbers, organisers had arranged for 110 coaches and two high-speed trains to bring people from all over France to the capital to demonstrate.
Xavier Poinsard, a 45-year-old father “of many children” from the city of Sens, 120 kilometres south of Paris, said he had helped organise buses and carpooling to the demonstration for at least 150 people.
Volunteer security guards
Despite a heavy police presence, a group of around 10 men had taken it upon themselves to provide their own security services during the demonstration. Wearing bright orange armbands with the text “securité marchons enfants” (security marching for children) and equipped with grey helmets and black gloves, they said that they were there purely as volunteers.
A small counter-demonstration was held in support of the bill on the sidelines of the bigger protest on Sunday, but no violence was reported.