Thousands march in France to protest alarming femicide levels

Arnaud BOUVIER, Nioucha ZAKAVATI
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Around 30 marches have been organised throughout France

Thousands rallied in Paris on Saturday to seek an end to gender violence and femicide in a country where at least 116 women have been killed by current or former partners this year, sparking national outrage.

The march began near the French capital's main opera house, with several protesters holding up placards bearing the image of a relative or friend killed in gender violence.

"Break the silence, not women," read one sign. "Down with the patriarchy," read another.

About 30 marches have been organised throughout France. They involve nearly 70 organisations, political parties, unions and associations.

"We think this will be a historic march," Caroline De Haas, one of the organisers, said, adding that "the level of awareness is moving at breakneck speed."

Central Paris was awash in a sea of purple -- the colour of the protesters.

"We can no longer count the number of cases where femicides could have been avoided," the organisers said on Facebook Saturday.

"With this march, we will make the public authorities take appropriate measures."

The government is expected to announce about 40 measures on Monday to tackle the scourge.

A total of 116 women have been murdered in France so far this year by their husband, partner or ex-partner, according to an AFP investigation.

The group "Femicides by companions or ex" meanwhile puts the toll at 137.

"In 32 femicides, it's Christmas," read one sign at the march.

It shows the scale of the problem as 121 were killed in France last year, according to official figures.

One woman is killed in France every three days by their partner or ex-partner, while marital violence affects 220,000 Frenchwomen every year.

"Our system is not working to protect these women," Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet recently said.

The killings in France are part of a global scourge that shows no signs of abating, with 87,000 women and girls killed in 2017 according to the UN -- over half of them killed either by their spouse, partner or own family.