Culture, In the News

Accepting No Defeat, about former French minister Christiane Taubira

On January 27th, French minister of Justice Christiane Taubira rode her bicycle home from a meeting with the president at Élysée Palace that morning, blowing a kiss farewell as she had no plans on returning to her job. “I left the government over a major political disagreement” Taubira said. “I am choosing to be true to myself, to my commitments, my battles and my relationships with other people.”

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Christian Hartmann – Reuters

The former minister is referring to the controversial new anti-terrorism proposals that stemmed after the November 13 Paris attacks, in which 130 people were murdered. Following the attack, President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls introduced plans of stripping French citizenship from dual-nationality citizens who were convicted of terrorism. [“Because French citizenship can be granted to those born on French soil, the country has many dual citizens who also have citizenship of former French colonies, often in north Africa. Under current law, only dual-national citizens who have been naturalized and acquired French citizenship less than 10 years before a convicted crime can be stripped of their French nationality, not those who are born French. But Hollande’s government is seeking to extend this to stripping nationality from all dual-national citizens convicted of terrorism, including those who were born French…” — The Guardian – 12/24/2015 ]

Taubira has been openly against these constitutional changes from the get go, recognizing the plans as purely symbolic and would only open doors to discriminating classifications of French “purity”. Creating potentially stateless individuals carries some legal problems and violates the Right to a Nationality from the UDHR.  This new law is a part of Hollande’s attempts to prevent terrorism by imposing tight security measures as he believes France to be a primary target of jihadist Islamic State ISIS. The country is already currently under State of Emergency, which despite many objections from human rights groups, he wishes to extend past it’s expiry date of February 26th.

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“Marriage for Everyone” Christiane Taubira and Thierry Marchal-Beck, May 2013 – photo: Mathieu Delmestre

The former minister’s resignation and opposing foot stomp for what’s right may seem like an uncalled for, courageous feat but that’s just classic Christiane for you. Born in French Guaiana, Taubira has been an unstoppable force since day one and was the first black woman to run in the presidential elections back in 2002. Even before then, Taubira was making waves of progression, pushing for a law that recognized slave trade and slavery as a crime against humanity. She succeeded and the Taubira law was established, with consistent advocacy for land reforms in France’s Caribbean territories as compensation for slavery. Her powerful independence and leftist passion led her to being the driving force behind the notable same-sex marriage law in 2013, something that she fiercely knocked heads with opposing right and far right parties. In heated debates she would tastefully quote poets René Char and Paul Ricoeur, as well as négritude writers such as Aimé Césaire and Léon-Gontran Damas. Although associated with Hollande, Taubira had always been a free-thinking maverick. When appointed Minister of Justice in 2012 she confided, “I can’t stand having a boss. My conscience is my boss, and my conscience dictates rules that are extremely, I’d say, grand – they’re rough but beautiful.”

Over a law that is not only racially charged and petty but also will prove ineffective (there’s a slim percentage of past perpetrators holding dual citizenship), Hollande has lost the valuable asset Christiane Taubira, who posed as the perfect leftist voice much needed on the political equilibrium of les Droits de l’Homme. One week following her resignation was the release of “Murmures à la jeunesse”, meaning whispers for the youth-an essay that Taubira artfully penned regarding her moral stance on the bill and the dangerous turning point the country could be heading in. Between dodging the bullets of hateful, racist taunts from far right supporters and opposing political conventions for equality’s sake during her time in office, her persistent willpower proves her to be the incredibly strong black woman she is, accepting no defeat. Not now, not ever.

words by Maya Amoah