Ni Putes Ni Soumises is a french phrase which translated literally means, "Neither Whores Nor Submissives", the phrase represents a rejection by women of the madonna/ whore stereotypes into which a male-dominated society may try to force them.
Ni Putes Ni Soumises is also the name of a french feminist movement which campaigns against the growing violence, often sexual, against women in France, particularly in the "cités", the poor suburban housing estates with largely immigrant populations. It was started by a french woman of North African descent, Fadela Amara, who grew up in one such town in Auvergne. She began working with the anti-racism movement in France during the nineteen-eighties, which culminated in the "Marche des Beurs" ("beur" is a french "verlan" or slang term for those of North African/ Arab origin or descent). Fadela worked with SOS-Racisme an anti-racism organisation, before becoming chairperson of the national anti-racism society Maison des Potes (lit. House of Friends) which has centres in many of the deprived areas with strong North African populations. Details about Fadela's life form part of the book Ni Putes Ni Soumises, which also chronicles the origins of the movement and it's aims.
Apart from the growing number of reports of violence Fadela saw during her work for the Maison des Potes, two events prompted the establishment of Ni Putes Ni Soumises. The first was the publication of a book by a young woman called Samira Bellil which recounted in sometimes chilling detail the phenomenon of the "tournants" or gang rapes which occur in ever increasing numbers in France, especially in the suburbs. The second event was the murder of a young woman called Sohane, she was of Algerian origin and was burnt alive on wasteground near her home in a suburb of Paris. She was murdered by young men from her area for refusing to submit to the norms of the society within which she lived, by refusing to be a submissive she was labelled a whore and murdered for it.
This epitomises the crisis which the movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises seeks to address. Young women in these suburbs, whose populations are mainly immigrant, and often largely muslim, are subjected to repressive conditions by the patriarchal system of their community. High levels of unemployment and poverty, poor living conditions and education all contribute to what has been called the "ghettoisation" of the suburbs. Along with the degradation of social conditions in these suburbs has been a degradation in the relations between the inhabitants, in particular between the young men and women. The power which the young men are denied in the outside world, by their exclusion from mainstream society and the discrimination against them, leads them to exercise their authority over the women within their world. The patriarchal traditions which remain a central party of many arab-originating households contrast with the values of greater french society, and are corrupted to form codes of behaviour which severely discriminate against women and their rights.
The physical violence and the group rapes are the most horrifying symptoms of this endemic but smaller suppressions of liberties for young girls in these suburbs are also something which Ni Putes Ni Soumises looks to address. The movement stands for equality and liberty from the oppression of violence and subjugation. In March 2002 Fadela Amara and a group of supporters visited many of the suburbs and "quartiers" before assembling around 30,000 people for a march through Paris, the "March of women against the ghettos and for equality". The march was hugely succesful at gaining media attention for the movement and it's aims, and the leaders met with important government officials, including Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the french Prime Minister. Several reccomendations were made from the Ni Putes, Ni Soumises manifesto and promises were made by the governement to publish a "Respect Guide" to be made available to all school children and for emergency shelters and specially trained police officers to be made available to the victims of violence. In terms of longterm action Ni Putes Ni Soumises has called for massive government reinvestiment in these suburban areas in order to reverse the process of ghettoisation by improving housing, education, policing and community groups.
Ni Putes Ni Soumises continues to campaign today, most recently via an advertising campaign which saw diverse female figures adorned with the bleu, blanc, rouge of the french flag to symbolise the unity and equality of the French Fifth Republic.