French minister denies 'medical rape' allegations

A third woman filed a criminal complaint against French minister Chrysoula Zacharopoulou. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - A junior minister in French President Emmanuel Macron's government on Friday (June 24) denied allegations she had raped patients during gynaecological examinations, after a third woman filed a criminal complaint.

"As a woman and a doctor, I am shocked and deeply hurt by these allegations, which I deny forcefully," state secretary for development, Francophony and international partnerships Chrysoula Zacharopoulou said in a statement.

Prosecutors told AFP on Friday that a third woman had come forward to report an alleged rape.

She told broadcaster TMC that she had been subject to "gynaecological violence" at a 2018 appointment related to her endometriosis.

Two other women filed complaints in May and June, prompting prosecutors to open an official investigation.

A former MEP, Greece-born Zacharopoulou was named a junior minister reporting to foreign minister Catherine Colonna after Mr Macron's April re-election to the presidency.

She gained prominence in the mid-2010s by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married France's former president Francois Hollande.

Last year, the 46-year-old compiled a government report into endometriosis.

"I've made early diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis the battle of my life," Dr Zacharopoulou said in her statement.

"The serious accusations against me, concerning medical examinations carried out to diagnose and treat my patients' illness, are unacceptable and revolting," she added, insisting that "I have never forced an examination on a single one of my patients without their consent".

The accusations against Dr Zacharopoulou are not the first rape allegations to shadow Mr Macron's government and come at a time of political difficulty for the President after he failed to retain an overall majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated interior minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation of rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.

Solidarities minister Damien Abad was also the target of rape allegations in a controversy that erupted last month, but French prosecutors have said they are not currently opening an investigation.

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