Gisèle Halimi: the Pantheon after the tribute? Why does it slip

A national tribute was paid on March 8, 2023 to lawyer and activist Gisèle Halimi.

Gisèle Halimi: the Pantheon after the tribute? Why does it slip

A national tribute was paid on March 8, 2023 to lawyer and activist Gisèle Halimi. The initiative, however, was considered opportunistic by feminist associations who are waiting to see the defender of rights entered the Pantheon.

March 8, 2023, in addition to being International Women's Rights Day, was also the day of national tribute to Gisèle Halimi. For nearly two hours, in the Paris courthouse, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Yves Halimi, one of the lawyer's sons, unrolled the portrait, the journey and the struggles of the figure of the feminist movement. This ceremony, all in emotion although resolutely political with regard to the life of Gisèle Halimi, was expected by many after two postponements. However, it left a bitter taste for many feminist associations who cried out for "political instrumentalization" and refused to go there.

The organizations inherited from the fights of Gisèle Halimi regretted a hastily organized tribute, in parallel with the traditional demonstrations of March 8 to defend the rights of women and in the midst of a social storm with the mobilizations against the pension reform. According to them, the feminist activist herself would not have condoned the way it was done and would have preferred to join both fights, including the one against the bill which would add to the injustices suffered by women. An opinion shared by journalist Serge Halimi, another son of the lawyer.

If the tribute paid to Gisèle Halimi has caused controversy, it is also because it is "dishonest" according to several feminist associations. Since the death of the activist - who died on July 20, 2020 - these organizations have been waiting for the progress initiated by the lawyer's struggles to be recognized and for the feminist figure to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But the subject is angry and was avoided during the tribute to the Head of State. If the Elysée, several times invited to consider this hypothesis, says not to close the door, but it is clear that it hesitates.

The entry of Gisèle Halimi into the Pantheon is an idea that does not lack support. The many fights of the militant defender of women's rights and from the left are all arguments that serve to defend this demand: the legalization of abortion, the recognition of rape as a crime, the fight against colonization and the war in Algeria, that against the death penalty or even the decriminalization of homosexuality. From October 2020, only a few months after the death of Gisèle Halimi, a petition was born to support the entry of the lawyer into the Pantheon. The document now has more than 35,000 signatures.

At the beginning of 2021, it was the historian Benjamin Stora who, without hesitation, mentioned Gisèle Halimi's entry into the Pantheon in his recommendations for "reconciling memories" in connection with the Algerian war, a subject on which Emmanuel Macron would like to leave a mark. And on the eve of the national tribute, it was the President of the National Assembly and member of the majority, Yaël Braun-Pivet, who in the Huffington Post supported the entry of Gisèle Halimi into the Pantheon, a "very good idea" according to her: "We, women politicians, need to bring this memory of great women to life and certainly Gisèle Halimi is one of those who carried out these fights and shaped women's rights in France and in the world. So yes , obviously, it has its place in the Pantheon".

The Elysée itself has not ruled out the idea of ​​making the activist the seventh woman to have her place alongside the greats in the Parisian building. She also assured on Monday March 6 that the national tribute "is not an alternative" to the Pantheon and that the lawyer's entry process "will be completed". Problem: It seems to take too long for some.

The personality and the ideas that Gisèle Halimi carried do not have consensus in the political sphere, especially on the right where certain fights of the anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist figure were not defended. During his proposal to enroll the activist in the Pantheon, the historian Benjamin Stora who rubbed shoulders with the lawyer also noted strong opposition from the Harkis and their descendants, stigmata of this painful memory of the Algerian war, reported Public Senate. This is both the strength and the drawback of such political personalities: the admiration of some and as strong as the resentment of others. This ambivalence could explain the hesitations of Emmanuel Macron took the plunge. For now, the Elysée has an excuse to justify the slow progress: "Entry to the Pantheon is always a long process, with the exception of Victor Hugo and Simone Veil. And it should not be revenge of one part of the country against another."

The temporality plays well in favor of the government, the feminist's death only dating back to July 20, 2020, less than 3 years, when Josephine Baker - the last woman to have been inducted - entered the Hall of Fame 46 years after her death .

Gisèle Halimi's entry into the Panthéon is not on the agenda, but the government intends to pay tribute to the lawyer, politician and activist, with a ceremony with great pomp on March 8, 2023. While Emmanuel Macron planned to hold a speech after Jean-Yves Halimi, one of the famous feminist's sons, took the floor, the initiative is not to everyone's taste and has provoked the ire of feminist associations in several respects.

Honoring Gisèle Halimi would be a last-minute decision, at least that's the impression we had Serge Halimi and Violaine Lucas, president of the association Choosing the cause of women, founded by Gisèle Halimi and Simone de Beauvoir. "We received a simple email on March 2 in the morning on the address of the association. […] We are warned six days before, when we already have an event at the European Parliament scheduled for March 8", not to mention the other mobilizations of March 8 always organized upstream. This lack of formalities is in their eyes the sign of the haste with which the government would have tried to restore its image in the midst of a crisis around the pension reform.

The ceremony supposed to honor the memory of Gisèle Halimi "seems to us to be a manifest instrumentalization", wrote Le Planning familial in the wake of other feminist associations. Violaine Lucas also regretted a "political instrumentalization" in a letter to the Head of State, seeing in this tribute the means of looking away from the mobilization against the pension reform "which particularly penalizes women" and to which the feminist " would undoubtedly have taken an active part". An opinion shared by Serge Halimi who believes that on March 8 "the best way to honor the memory and the struggles" of his mother is to be on the street.