Battle against sexual violence at one of France's elite educational institutes


The École Polytechnique, one of France's most prestigious higher education institutions, faced calls to tackle issues of sexual violence and sexism among students and staff well before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. Some women students have complained of sexist comments and others of sexual assaults. There has been one allegation of rape. Faïza Zerouala reports on attempts to fight sexist behaviour at the elite engineering school where military training is compulsory and which has a “macho” atmosphere.

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It is written in black and white in article 3 of the École Polytechnique's own code. “Outside, Comrade, the people you speak to will form their view of the École from your comments. Be discerning and avoid flaunting our customs because they are idiosyncratic, even impenetrable, and sometimes shocking for those who don't practice them.” For a long time the students at this prestigious school of engineering south-west of Paris, where military training is still compulsory, have felt bound by a duty of confidentiality, which has stopped them from reporting potentially criminal acts.